Cooperation between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom to build nuclear submarines means the transfer of nuclear technology and creates nuclear proliferation risks, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a briefing on Wednesday.

“Nuclear submarine cooperation between the three countries poses a serious threat of nuclear proliferation, violates the goals and objectives of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and negatively affects the international non-proliferation system,” he pointed out.

Wang Wenbin also noted that cooperation between the US, Australia and the UK marked the first transfer of energy reactors for nuclear-powered submarines and a large amount of weapons-grade enriched uranium to a non-nuclear-weapons nation.

Australia announced plans to create a nuclear submarine fleet in the fall of 2021 following reports about the establishment of its military alliance with the UK and the US (AUKUS). In March 2023, the alliance adopted a three-phase plan to provide Canberra with conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines. Under the plan, five US and British nuclear submarines will be deployed to Australia by 2023. Three Virginia-class US submarines will be purchased for the country’s Navy starting in 2033. The UK will build the first submarine of the new SSN-AUKUS class by the early 2040s, and production will move to Australia’s Adelaide by 2042.