Beijing is betraying the U.S. government’s new “AUKUS” technology-sharing working group with the U.K. and Australia as a threat to peace in the Indo-Pacific region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Thursday slammed the grouping as a thoughtfulnes of “outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception” that “intensified” a regional appendages hasten and harmed international non-proliferation efforts.

That rhetoric — including Zhao’s reference to “cliques” designed to target “third party” countries — reflects the Chinese government’s recognition that the U.S. has has been unable to rally allies in the Indo-Pacific to counter Beijing’s increasingly vigorous moves in the region. The AUKUS deal constructs no precise reference to China, but two U.S. officials observed that the subtext of the advertisement is that this is another move by Western allies to push back on China’s rise in the military and technology arenas. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday responded to questions about the AUKUS agreement’s places great importance on China by insisting that it “is not about any one country, ” adding that “we do not seek conflict[ with China ]. ”

Zhao hinted that the Chinese government may allege Australia of contravening its commitment under the Treaty of Rarotonga, which includes exclusions on the product, self-possession or acquisition of nuclear weapons.

That tactic would dismiss or misinterpret the fact that the AUKUS deal includes equipping Australia with technology for nuclear propulsion , not nuclear weapon. Both President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison emphasized that Australia doesn’t seek a atomic weapon. The three countries will undertake discussions over the next 18 months to figure out how best to deliver the technology, which the U.S. traditionally has only associate myself with the U.K.

But the Chinese state media scaffold Global Times took a more extreme position on Australia’s membership in the AUKUS grouping. Citing unnamed “military experts, ” the Global Times forewarned that Australia’s deployment of nuclear-powered submarines will “potentially shape Australia a target of a nuclear strike if a nuclear fight breaks out, even when Washington said it won’t arm Canberra with nuclear weapon, because it’s easy for the U.S. to give Australia with nuclear weapons and submarine-launched ballistic missiles when Australia has the submarines.”

That threat reflects the impression among a number of aspects of the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army that the U.S. wants to use its Indo-Pacific affinities to militarily envelop China.

Those sensibilities was previously deepened on Monday when the White House announced that the commanders of “the Quad” — the U.S ., India, Australia and Japan — will fulfill in person on Sept. 28. The spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C ., Liu Pengyu, implicitly invoked such concerns in an emailed statement to POLITICO on Thursday that warned against the creation of “exclusionary blocs” bound by “ideological prejudice.”

The prospect of Australia deploying long-range nuclear-powered submarines will naturally intensify very concerned about military miscalculations in the region that could lead to potential conflict.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken alerted last-place month about “worsening resistances with China” in the South China Sea and said that a U.S-China military conflict there “would have serious world significances for safety and for commerce.” The sources of those resistances include China’s increasingly aggressive stance toward the self-governing island of Taiwan and China’s refusal to comply with a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that accepted China’s claims of sovereignty over vast swaths of the South China Sea.

Multiple onetime senior U.S. military personnel have told POLITICO that the potential for an unintended U.S.-China conflict is growing due to bilateral military crisis communication systems that remain highly unreliable. They counsel that deficiency of regular communication could fuel a U.S.-China military discord at a time of heightening bilateral tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

The foreign ministry’s Zhao too warned of such negative unintended outcomes. Those countries that don’t “do more make contributions to regional agreement, stability and development … will exclusively end up shooting themselves in the paw, ” Zhao said.

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