The remarks of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen reflected the widespread concern of regional countries including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries over the tripartite AUKUS alliance, which undermines ASEAN's efforts to build a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Southeast Asia and risks turning the Pacific Ocean into an ocean of storms, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry's response was supportive of the attitude taken by Hun Sen on the AUKUS alliance, under which Australia will be able to build nuclear-powered submarines with technology provided by the U.S. and the UK.
In a speech on Monday, Hun Sen said that AUKUS, the military pact among the U.S., the UK and Australia, is becoming a concern for ASEAN and countries in the region because ASEAN is a nuclear weapon-free zone, and members oppose nuclear weapon proliferation, the Khmer Times reported. Hun Sen said the military alliance is the "starting point of a very dangerous arms race" in the region and if the situation continues, the world will face a bigger danger.
As a comprehensive strategic partner of ASEAN and a friendly neighbor, China has always firmly supported ASEAN's efforts to build a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Southeast Asia and was the first country with nuclear weapons to publicly support the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ Treaty), according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.
Wang said that according to estimates by international arms control experts, the amount of weapon-grade nuclear materials the U.S. and the UK will give to Australia could be used to manufacture up to 64 to 80 nuclear weapons.
The scheme will also stimulate other countries without nuclear weapon to follow suit and turn the region into an arena for an arms race, Wang pointed out, saying such security-anxiety-causing behavior to other nations is highly irresponsible and extremely dangerous.
Wang once again urged the U.S., the UK and Australia to listen to the concerns of the international community and cease their nuclear proliferation activities, including nuclear submarine cooperation.