An increasingly aggressive and confident China has helped form a new trilateral security partnership between the US, UK and Australia, a defense expert told CNBC.

The new partnership announced on Wednesday is intended to strengthen stability in the Indo-Pacific. The US and UK will assist Australia in acquiring nuclear powered submarines, which will enable the Australian Navy to aid against Chinese nuclear powered ships in the region.

The three countries downplayed the notion that the partnership was specifically targeted at China.

“I can assure you that none of this would have happened if Xi Jinping hadn’t pursued more aggressive and assertive policies for the past half a decade or more,” said Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank CNBC’s “Street Signs.” Asia “on Thursday.

China is the strategic problem in the region.

Peter Jennings

Managing Director, Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Under Xi, China militarized the South China Sea, tightened controls over Hong Kong, threatened Taiwan and Japan, and economically punished Australia, Jennings added.

“China is the strategic problem in the region,” he said.

“I’m sure Beijing won’t like this development, but what do you expect? Obviously, successor countries in the region will try to strengthen themselves to deal with a more aggressive China, and honestly it is said “happened to this announcement.”

In response to the new security pact, China’s embassy spokesman in Washington, Liu Pengyu, told Reuters that countries “should not build exclusive blocs that target or harm the interests of others. In particular, they should shake off their Cold War mentality and ideological prejudices. “

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Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at RAND Corporation, said China could impose unilateral economic sanctions in response to the new security grouping.

“China has used this as a lever in the past to punish Australia when it suits it. But there are many other things China can do China Sea against Taiwan, “Grossman told CNBC’s Capital Connection on Thursday.

“Deterrent Effect” in the Indo-Pacific

Geopolitical experts say Taiwan is one of the most dangerous hotspots in the strategic competition between the US and China.

Jennings said it was important to build “a strong deterrent” in the Indo-Pacific region for China to conclude that “Taiwan is just not worth watching a military game”.

Taiwan and mainland China are separated by the Taiwan Strait, which is only about 160 km wide at its narrowest point. The ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing has never controlled Taiwan, but claims the island is a runaway province that will one day be reunited with the mainland – by force if necessary.

China has been more aggressive in asserting its claims against Taiwan, and there have been numerous violations of Taiwan’s air defense zone by Chinese fighter jets this year.

“In all fairness, when the US, UK and Australia work together in a stronger kind of alliance relationship … that begins to paint a picture that says to China, ‘You will not get away with attacking Taiwan”. the way you got away with militarizing the South China Sea, “Jennings said.

The South China Sea is a resource-rich waterway and a major merchant shipping route, which is reported to flow through trillions of dollars of world trade every year.

Beijing occupies almost all of the sea and has established military outposts on man-made islands that it has established in these waters. Several Asian countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia, also claim parts of the South China Sea as their territories.

In 2016, a tribunal at China’s Permanent Arbitration Court dismissed the lawsuit as legally unfounded – a ruling Beijing ignored.

– Abigail Ng of CNBC contributed to this report.