China has angrily responded to joint criticism by Australian and US governments over its human rights record and aggression in the region, urging the countries to abandon their "outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality".
The Chinese ambassador to Australia Cheng Jingye said the Morrison government had a "narrow-minded geopolitical perception" in response to remarks made by senior ministers during the annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN).
It comes the day following a major announcement between the countries and the UK agreeing to a new trilateral technology-sharing deal, which will deliver Australia eight new nuclear-powered submarines by 2040.
China also slammed the submarine deal with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian describing the decision as extremely irresponsible.
He said it intensified the arms race and undermined international non-proliferation agreements.
Chinese Communist Party-controlled tabloid The Global Times wrote Australia was now a potential target for a nuclear strike because China and Russia faced threats from the submarines.
"Australian troops are also most likely to be the first batch of Western soldiers to waste their lives in the South China Sea," the state newspaper said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied the pact risked provoking a military conflict with China.
"I don't think that sort of language actually helps promote peace and stability," he told ABC radio of The Global Times piece.
"All countries will invest in their own defence capabilities, and, indeed, China does in theirs."
The prime minister said he didn't share Mr Zhao's views, nor did other countries in the region.
The US and Australia are this week undertaking discussions over plans to safeguard peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, adding China coerced and intimidated other countries.
In talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Australia's Defence Minister Peter Dutton said China's "outbursts" didn't line up with the facts.
"We stand with our neighbours in the Indo-Pacific to ensure enduring peace, and this collaboration makes it a safer region," Mr Dutton said.
"That's the reality, and no amount of propaganda can dismiss the facts."
But a statement released on Friday by the Chinese embassy in Australia rejected the claims and called for Australia to "stop sliding further down" a damaging road for China-Australia relations.
"This petty move to put pressure on China will be of no avail but a staged farce," a statement by an embassy spokesperson said.
"We urge the Australian side to abandon the outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception, handle its relationship with China in a genuinely independent manner, stop sliding further down on the road of harming China-Australia relations, and do more to enhance mutual trust and promote pragmatic cooperation."
Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Senator Marise Payne had earlier extended the invitation for constructive talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping but the offer had yet to be taken up.
"We've been very consistent in reiterating our desire to have constructive engagement with China, and we have consistently reiterated that we place great importance on the relationship," Senator Payne said.
"But as we engage with China, we'll always consider our own national interest, as any sovereign nation would, as the minister for defence has stated here today. We are open to dialogue.
"I regret that it is consistently not taken up. It seems to me that mature actors would consider that in a constructive way."
Mr Zhao said the decision intensified the arms race and undermined international non-proliferation agreements.
"The export of highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology to Australia by the US and the UK proves once again that they are using nuclear exports as a tool for geopolitical game and adopting double standards," he said.
"This is extremely irresponsible."
Mr Zhao said he was not aware of an open invitation Mr Morrison said he had extended to Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the arrangement.
The ministers will be heading to the United Nations in New York before returning to Australia, following a ministerial tour that has taken them to Indonesia, India and South Korea.
- with AAP
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