The US-led initiative was created to antagonize Beijing, Sri Lanka’s president has said.
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has condemned the AUKUS pact as an alliance designed to target China, calling it a “strategic misstep,” and insisting it will only divide Asia into rival camps and destabilize the region.
Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Monday, Wickremesing he took aim at AUKUS, which was formed by the US, UK, and Australia in 2021. “I don’t think it was needed,” he said.
“I think it’s a strategic misstep. I think they made a mistake,” the president stated. “It is a military alliance moved against one country – China.”
Wickremesinghe went on to say that Sri Lanka wants no part in the growing tensions between Washington and Beijing, adding that his country would like to maintain good relations with both powers and does not wish to see Asia divided into competing blocs.
“The next round of rivalry is going on. And that’s taking place in Asia. It’s the question of China versus the US, on how they are going to divide their region of influence in Asia,” he said. “Why are we getting pulled into it? It’s difficult for us to understand.”
The president also expressed concern about the stepped-up US military presence in the region in recent years – often labeled ‘freedom of navigation’ missions by American officials. “As far as the Indian Ocean is concerned, we don’t want any military activity,” he continued, saying most neighboring countries “will not want NATO anywhere close by.”
AUKUS was established in 2021 between Washington, Canberra, and London in part to facilitate the transfer of military technology among the three allies. Though officials from each country have maintained that the bloc is not a formal military alliance and is solely focused on technology sharing, Beijing has condemned the project, claiming it will only help to spread nuclear weapons around the globe and kick off an arms race in Asia.
“The three countries have gone further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical self-interest, completely ignoring the concerns of the international community,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said earlier this year, adding that the AUKUS pact is based on a “Cold War mentality which will only motivate an arms race, damage the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, and harm regional stability and peace.”
Tensions between Washington and Beijing have steadily escalated in recent years, with former US President Donald Trump kicking off a low-level trade war with China which persists under his successor, Joe Biden.
The Biden administration has also deployed navy warships to waters near China on a near-monthly basis, including the disputed Taiwan Strait, drawing repeated condemnation from Chinese officials