Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has warned that the AUKUS deal to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines could spark a nuclear arms race in the region, while an ex-diplomat claims Canberra is now isolated.

Ismail expressed concern about the effects on regional stability on Saturday, after he spoke to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison about the AUKUS treaty – Canberra’s new deal with the United States and United Kingdom to acquire nuclear-powered submarines apparently aimed at countering China.

The AUKUS deal could become a “catalyst for a nuclear arms race in the Indo-Pacific region,” and could also “provoke other powers to act more aggressively in the region, especially in the South China Sea,” Ismail warned. He then called on everyone “to avoid any provocation and arms competition in the region.”

Also on Saturday, former Australian diplomat Bruce Haigh warned that the country was now “isolated in Asia and Europe” due to the AUKUS deal.

“The region is angry with the Morrison/Dutton submarine decision,” Haigh declared, accusing Morrison of having “lied yesterday when he said the region was on side.”

Malaysia is not the only country in the region to have expressed concern over AUKUS.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry proclaimed on Friday that it was “very concerned about the continued arms race and projection of military power in the region,” and called on Morrison and his government to “maintain peace, stability and security.”

China has called the move “extremely irresponsible,” with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warning that the deal “seriously undermines regional peace and stability, and intensifies the arms race.”

The Chinese embassy in Washington called on Australia, the US, and the UK to “shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice,” while the Chinese state-backed Global Times newspaper claimed Australia, as “a pawn of the US,” could “face the most dangerous consequence of being cannon fodder in the event of a military showdown in the region.”

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, however, shot back that “no amount of propaganda” from China could change the deal.

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