SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Chinese embassy in Canberra said it rejects “unfounded accusations” against China made by the defence and foreign ministers of Australia and their United States counterparts after annual talks in Washington.

A statement released by the two countries after the Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations expressed concern over China’s “expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea that are without legal basis”, and stated their intention to strengthen ties with Taiwan.

The joint statement also criticised China’s actions imposing a National Security Law in Hong Kong that had weakened the electoral system and supressed media freedom, and expressed “grave concerns about China’s “campaign of repression against Uyghurs”, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority group in the western Xinjiang region.

“This petty move to put pressure on China will be of no avail but a staged farce,” a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Canberra said in a statement.

“We firmly oppose and reject the unfounded accusations and erroneous remarks against China on issues related to the South China Sea, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan and other China-related issues.”

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Speaking after the meetings in Washington, Australia and the United States announced expanded military cooperation, including rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia, a day after announcing a submarine deal denounced by China as intensifying a regional arms race.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Michael Perry)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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