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China warns of ‘extreme harm, no benefit’ from AUKUS

China warned Thursday that the AUKUS pact will bring “all harm” with “no benefits” while triggering an arms race in the region.

“AUKUS is all harm no benefit,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei told a news briefing in Beijing.

“This kind of small circle dominated by the Cold War mentality is of no benefit and extremely harmful,” he added.

Tan was referring to the trilateral pact signed among the US, UK, and Australia under which Canberra will get nuclear-powered submarines.

The AUKUS “risks nuclear proliferation,” he said, warning it will “trigger” an arms race and “escalate regional tensions,” according to a transcript of the news briefing.

“Such cooperation is an extension of the nuclear deterrence policy of individual countries, and it is a game tool for them to build an ‘Asia-Pacific version of NATO’ and maintain their own hegemony,” Tan said, adding: “It has seriously impacted the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, and many countries in the region are deeply worried about this.”

Tan called on Washington, London, and Canberra to “recognize the general trend of the times, abandon selfish distractions that harm others and benefit themselves, listen to the voice of the international community with an open mind, earnestly fulfill their international responsibilities and obligations, and do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability.”

The spokesman also called out the “China threat” used as an “excuse” by western countries to increase military spending.

Tan said: “We firmly oppose relevant countries using ‘China’s military threat’ as an excuse to increase military budgets.”

“For a long time, the United States has the highest defense budget in all countries in the world, and it is also the United States that wages wars and creates turmoil everywhere,” Tan said, adding China was “a builder of world peace” and an “epoch-making opportunity, not a challenge.”

“The United States is the biggest threat to world peace, security, and stability. At the same time, we urge the UK side to correct its mentality, maintain a correct understanding of China, and stop hyping up the so-called China challenge,” he added.

On concerns raised by Japan and the Philippines over Chinese activities in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, Tan said: “China is committed to maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

“For a period of time, some countries have adhered to the Cold War mentality and zero-sum game concept and used the so-called ‘China coercion’ and ‘China military threat’ to engage in ‘small courtyards and high walls’ and military expansion. We firmly oppose this,” he said.

Reiterating Chinese claims on disputed Diaoyu Island as “China’s inherent territory,” Tan said: “The Chinese military will take necessary measures to resolutely defend its own territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in response to individual countries’ infringement and provocations on issues such as the Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea.”

The Diaoyu Islands, known as Senkaku Islands in Tokyo, are disputed between China and Japan.

On the trilateral China-Iran-Russia Security Belt-2023 joint naval drill, he said the exercises “enhanced the three navies’ capabilities in carrying out various military missions together and contributed to safeguarding maritime security as well as regional peace and stability.”

“The Chinese military is ready to enhance communication and cooperation with the Russian military, deepen military mutual trust, and hold regular joint naval, air patrols and drills,” he added.

The five-day trilateral naval drill was held early this month in the Gulf of Oman.

China also condemned the transit arranged for Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s trip to Central America.

“The US and the Taiwan authorities made arrangements for Tsai to engage in political activities in the US and framed it as a ‘transit’ to upgrade official exchanges and substantive relations with the Taiwan region,” said Mao Ning, spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry.

“This once again shows that the fundamental cause of the new round of tensions in the Taiwan Strait is the Taiwan authorities’ repeated attempt to solicit US support for ‘Taiwan independence’ and the fact that some in the US intend to use Taiwan to contain China,” she said, according to a transcript of the news briefing.

Tsai, 66, is on a 10-day trip to Guatemala and Belize, two of Taiwan’s only 13 diplomatic allies. She landed in New York, where she was greeted by supporters as well as pro-China demonstrations.

She will fly down south to central America from the US city.

Her trip was overshadowed by Honduras severing ties with Taipei and establishing diplomatic relations with China.

Honduras President Xiomara Castro is expected to undertake an official trip to China in the coming days.

“China is ready to strengthen high-level exchanges and jointly promote cooperation in various fields with Honduras,” Mao told reporters in Beijing.

Paraguay, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, The Kingdom of Eswatini, The Holy See, Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Tuvalu are the other 12 diplomatic allies of Taiwan.

While Tsai flew out of Taipei on Wednesday, her predecessor and former chairman of Taiwan’s opposition Kuomintang Ma Ying-jeou last weekend left for a 12-day tour of the Chinese mainland.

Ma reached Wuhan on Thursday morning where he told local residents: “We welcome everyone to visit Taiwan.”

Amid its efforts to de-dollarize international transactions, China made its first yuan-settled liquefied natural gas (LNG) trade on Tuesday.

China National Offshore Oil Corporation and France’s TotalEnergies completed the process through the Shanghai Petroleum and Natural Gas Exchange, “with about 65,000 tons of LNG imported from the UAE changing hands in the trade,” China Daily reported.

“The first international LNG transaction settled in yuan promotes multi-currency pricing, settlement, and cross-border payment,” said Guo Xu, chairman of Natural Gas Exchange.

Meanwhile, Mao told reporters Thursday that China and Brazil have made yuan-clearing arrangements last month.

“These arrangements will help enterprises and financial institutions in both countries conduct cross-border transactions using the RMB (yuan). They will also further facilitate bilateral trade and investment. Regarding the specifics you asked about, I will need to refer you to the competent authorities,” Mao said.

On the US accusation of a debt trap, Mao said: “We never attach any political strings, or seek any selfish political interests. We have been helping developing countries relieve debt burdens, and made the biggest contribution to implementing the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative.”

“World Bank statistics show that multilateral financial institutions and commercial creditors, accounting for more than 80% of the sovereign debt of developing countries, are the biggest source of stress on developing countries in terms of debt payment. Since last year, the US has resorted to unprecedented massive interest rate hikes, making the debt problems of certain countries even worse. The US needs to take concrete steps to help developing countries, rather than point fingers at others,” she added.

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