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Defense expert on aggressive China, U.S.-U.K.-Australia security pact


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An increasingly aggressive and assertive China contributed to the formation of a new trilateral security partnership among the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, a defense expert told CNBC.

The the new partnership, announced on Wednesday, seeks to strengthen stability in Indo-Pacific. The U.S. and U.K. will assist Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines, which will allow the Australian navy to help counter Chinese nuclear-powered vessels in the region.

The three countries downplayed the notion that the partnership is aimed specifically at China.

“I can assure you that none of this would have gone ahead were it not for more aggressive and assertive policies being pursued by Xi Jinping over the last half decade or more,” Peter Jennings, executive director of think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Thursday.

China is the strategic problem in the region.

Peter Jennings

Executive Director, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Under Xi, China has militarized the South China Sea, tightened controls over Hong Kong, threatened Taiwan and Japan, as well as economically punished Australia, added Jennings.

“China is the strategic problem in the region,” he said.

“I’m sure Beijing will not like this development but what do they expect? It’s obviously going to be the case that the consequential countries in the region will seek to strengthen themselves in order to deal with a more aggressive China, and frankly that’s what happened with this announcement.”

In response to the new security pact, China’s Washington embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu told Reuters that countries “should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties. In particular, they should shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice.”

CNBC Politics

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Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at RAND Corporation, said China could use unilateral economic sanctions as a response to the new security grouping.

“China has used that … as a lever in the past to punish Australia when it sees fit. But there’s lots of other things China can do as well. They can ramp up their military assertiveness in the South China Sea, in the East China Sea against Taiwan,” Grossman told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” on Thursday.

‘Deterrence effect’ in Indo-Pacific

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