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BRITAIN’S peace movement condemned the government today over the “serious escalation” of the new cold war against China marked by the new “Aukus” pact.
Under the agreement, Britain, Australia and the United States will co-operate on the development of a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for the Australian navy and on a range of other military projects in the Far East.
The move follows the US’s enrollment of India, Japan and Australia into a “quad” to contain China, whose economic and technological development is perceived as a threat to Washington’s global supremacy.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson increased the cap on the number of nuclear warheads owned by the British government by 44 per cent and raised military spending by the highest percentage since the Korean war.
Stop the War Coalition condemned the pact as an unnecessary and provocative step that will heighten tensions with China.
The group also raised concerns over US briefings that Westminster has been pushing for strong military involvement in the region as part of its “global Britain” push.
Convener Lindsey German said: “This new partnership can only ratchet up what is already an alarming cold war with China.
“Twenty years on from the start of the war on terror, our leaders seem to have learnt nothing about the disasters that are generated by foreign military intervention.”
It comes as the Defence & Security Equipment International arms fair takes place in London this week.
The Peace Pledge Union (PPU) said the only thing that would be protected by the deal would be the profits of arms dealers.
Campaigns manager Symon Hill said: “People are struggling with Covid-19, poverty pay and food shortages, but politicians and generals seem to think that they can make us safe with bombs and missiles.
“Weapons cannot protect us from the most serious threats that we face — including pandemics, poverty and climate chaos.”
Mr Hill hit out at the government’s continued military subservience to the US, saying that Britain “must be more than a tribute band for the Pentagon.”
No Cold War Britain’s Fiona Edwards told the Morning Star: “The US already has 400 military bases surrounding China and this year’s $753 billion (£546bn) US military budget is focused on upgrading US military capabilities against China.
“Key US allies are supporting this US militarisation of the Pacific region, including Britain which recently sent a warship to the South China Sea.
“Meanwhile Japan is currently conducting its biggest military exercises in nearly 30 years in a move directed against China.”
Ms Edwards said that the world “needs global co-operation to tackle shared threats of the pandemic and climate change, not a new cold war.”
Peace and Justice Project co-founder Jeremy Corbyn warned that starting a new cold war would not bring peace, justice and human rights to the world.
Labour welcomed the announcement, however, though leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the government to maintain a commercial relationship with China.
PM Boris Johnson claimed that the pact is not intended as an adversarial move towards any power but to “merely reflect the close relationship” between the three countries.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace denied that the agreement was an attempt to engage in a new cold war but said that China’s military growth had led to a “reaction elsewhere.”
Former Derby North MP Chris Williamson retorted: “We don’t need a pact to counter China, we need one to counter the warmongering US empire.”
The pact’s unexpected announcement sparked international uproar, with China saying that London and Washington were being “highly irresponsible” and warning that the export of military technology would provoke renewed regional arms races around the world.
“The most urgent task is for Australia to ... think carefully whether to treat China as a partner or a threat,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
He added that the pact showed an “outdated cold war zero-sum mentality.”
A less diplomatic editorial in the Chinese Communist Party tabloid Global Times slammed Australia as a “running dog of the US” and said that Washington should be wary of stirring up international rivalries that could spill over into “antagonism and destruction beyond its control.”
But US allies were also taken aback, with France – which now loses a contract worth tens of billions of euros with Australia to build a new fleet of conventional submarines – slamming a “stab in the back” from Canberra, Washington and London.
“We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. “The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner ... shows a lack of coherence.”
Mr Le Drian hinted that it would accelerate EU plans to build its own military forces independently of Washington.
“The regrettable decision that has just been announced ... reinforces the need to make the need for European strategic autonomy loud and clear,” he said.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the country had not been asked to join the three-way alliance but would not have wished to anyway.
She emphasised that a longstanding ban on nuclear-powered ships entering its waters would apply and that the new Australian submarines would not be welcome.
Britain has already despatched the Queen Elizabeth II aircraft carrier flotilla to the China seas in a demonstration of loyalty to Washington’s new strategic priorities.
But the new pact with two members of the “quad” deepens its military entanglement in the region.
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