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The US Air Force will provide the Royal Australian Air Force with up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers. Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger/US Air Force

November 1 (UPI) — The US Department of Defense confirmed on Tuesday that it would send B-52 bombers capable of carrying nuclear bombs to Australia.

Four Corners, an Australian news program, announced for the first time that the United States would send up to six B-52 bombers on Sunday. The announcement comes amid ongoing unrest between Australia and China.

Australia has raised concerns about China’s activities in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as the country’s stockpiling of nuclear weapons. China, meanwhile, has alleged that Australia was operating in a “Cold War mindset”, forcing the Communist Party to pull out of economic deal talks earlier this year.

China is critical of the US decision to send nuclear-capable bombers to the Royal Australian Air Force’s Tindal base in the Northern Territory. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian addressed the issue at a regular press conference on Monday.

“All countries’ defense and security cooperation should contribute to regional peace and stability and should not target any third party or harm its interests,” he said. “Such a move by the United States and Australia exacerbates regional tensions, seriously undermines regional peace and stability, and could trigger an arms race in the region. China urges relevant parties to abandon the mentality outdated Cold War and narrow geopolitical mindset, and do more things that are good for regional peace and stability and mutual trust among all parties.”

Michael Shoebridge, director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said US defense aid was meant to “complicate” China’s military planning, forcing it to reconsider its actions given the capabilities of American defences.

The United States has strengthened its ties with Australia, especially on the defense front. In April, the two countries announced a partnership with Britain to accelerate the development of hypersonic weapons. Russia and China were already deeply engaged in the development of weapons with hypersonic capabilities. President Joe Biden has confirmed that Russia used hypersonic missiles in an attack on Ukraine in March.

Australia and Japan signed a “historic” joint statement on security operations, pledging to “expand and strengthen” their mutual security cooperation. Russia and China have also grown closer throughout the Russian invasion of Ukraine.