On Friday, Australia openly mocked a top Chinese diplomat’s worries over the country’s plan to buy nuclear-powered submarines, calling them “so ridiculous it’s amusing.”
Wang Xining, the charge d’affaires at the Chinese embassy, said Australia would be the “bad guy” if it bought the submarines, which can conduct covert, long-duration missions.
In an interview with The Guardian, Wang said that nuclear-powered submarines are meant to launch long-range attacks.
“So, who will you be attacking? You become a sword wielder in a specific form, rather than a peace lover or defender “Wang has been China’s top envoy in Australia since the previous ambassador left after a five-year tenure last month.
Wang claimed that Australia lacked “nuclear capacity” to deal with any problems with the submarines and wondered if politicians were willing to apologise to the public if an event occurred.
In a televised interview, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton mocked the “inflammatory” remarks, calling them “provocative, sort of hilarious phrases, really that are so foolish it’s amusing.”
“I think most Australians see through the non-productive character of the comments,” Dutton said of the acting Chinese ambassador, who “is probably reading off a screenplay from the Communist Party.”
In September, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that he has opted to purchase the nuclear-powered ships as part of a new defence alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom.
Aside from enraging China, the agreement enraged France, which found out at the last minute that its own multibillion-dollar diesel-electric submarine contract with Australia had been cancelled.
Wang also warned Australian lawmakers not to do something “damaging to the relationship” in his interview with The Guardian.
Dutton claimed over the weekend that he couldn’t see a situation in which Australia wouldn’t back the US in an armed battle over Taiwan.
Taiwan, a self-governing democracy with a population of 23 million people, is claimed by Beijing, which has promised to conquer the island by force if necessary.
High-level diplomatic interactions between Australia and China have been frozen for almost two years due to icy relations.
China has applied harsh sanctions on some Australian exports, which Canberra interprets as revenge for Australia’s decision to bar Huawei from crucial contracts and for raising concerns about the origins of the Covid-19 epidemic.
There is no indication that either side is willing to give up ground.
Morrison published a list of 63 “essential technologies” this week, including 5G communications, that must be protected from foreign parties, including China.