China warned on Tuesday that Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States were treading a "path of error and danger" after they unveiled a nuclear-powered submarines deal.
"The latest joint statement from the US, UK and Australia demonstrates that the three countries, for the sake of their own geopolitical interests, completely disregard the concerns of the international communities and are walking further and further down the path of error and danger," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.
Australia announced on Monday it would buy up to five US nuclear-powered submarines, then build a new model with US and British technology under an ambitious plan to bulk up Western muscle across the Asia-Pacific in the face of a rising China.
US President Joe Biden has stressed that Australia, which joined a newly formed alliance with Washington and London known as AUKUS 18 months ago, will not be getting nuclear weapons.
However, acquiring submarines powered by nuclear reactors puts Australia in an elite club and at the forefront of US-led efforts to push back against Chinese military expansion.
Wang accused the three Western allies on Tuesday of inciting an arms race, saying the security deal was "a typical case of Cold War mentality".
The sale of submarines "constitutes a severe nuclear proliferation risk, and violates the aims and objectives of the Non-Proliferation Treaty," Wang said at a regular news conference.