(Reuters) -The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale of Tomahawk cruise missiles to Australia in a deal valued at up to $895 million, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
The package would include up to 220 Tomahawk cruise missiles and technical support, the Pentagon said. The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale on Thursday.
Despite approval by the State Department, the notification does not indicate a contract has been signed or that negotiations have concluded. The Pentagon said Raytheon was the prime contractor for the weapons.
China has condemned this and other moves taken by the United States and allies Australia and Britain to counter Beijing’s ambition to expand its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
“We are aware of relevant reports. Any defense and security cooperation between countries should benefit regional peace and stability, and not be targeted at third parties or hurt the interests of third parties,” said China foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin when asked about the deal.
“The relevant action has worsened regional tensions, severely damaging regional peace and stability, with the possibility of triggering a regional arms race. China urges the relevant parties to abandon their outdated Cold War mentality and narrow geopolitical concepts,” Wang said at a regular news briefing on Friday.
The United States, Australia and Britain on Monday unveiled details of a plan to provide Australia with nuclear-powered attack submarines from the early 2030s.
China has said the AUKUS deal, a trilateral security pact between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, is an illegal act of nuclear proliferation.
(Reporting by Eric Beech, Dan Whitcomb and Eduardo Baptista in Beijing; Editing by Caitlin Webber and Tom Hogue)
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