The submarine deal crisis… Australia rejects French criticism, signs of a crisis between Washington and Paris, and deep Chinese concern

Amman Today

publish date 2021-09-17 17:22:00

Australia has rejected French criticism against it over canceling a 2016 submarine deal with a French company and replacing it with nuclear-powered ones in partnership with Washington and London, a development that sparked great discontent in Paris and Beijing.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday he had raised the possibility that his country would cancel a 2016 submarine deal with a French company in talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in June, dismissing French criticism that it had not received warnings.

Australia announced yesterday that it would cancel a $40 billion deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines, and would instead build at least 8 nuclear-powered submarines with American and British technology after concluding a tripartite security partnership.

The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom announced Wednesday that they would establish a security partnership in the Indo-Pacific region that would help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, scrapping the French submarine deal.

The two countries will also establish in Australia “joint capabilities” in the field of logistics and maintenance of the submarines that Australia will receive, and they will also intensify joint exercises, according to Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton.

Dutton announced that his country’s security agreement with the United Kingdom and the United States will allow Washington to strengthen its military presence in the country.

He said – at a press conference in the framework of bilateral talks in Washington – that the security agreement provides for measures that would “greatly enhance” cooperation and the ability to work together between Australian and US forces.

“It will enhance our air capabilities, our naval capabilities, and certainly our military posture as well,” Dutton said.

The US military already has a non-permanent presence in Darwin, northern Australia, where about 2,500 Marines are deployed each year in rotation to conduct exercises.

French anger

France reacted angrily to the loss of the $40 billion deal, calling the US move a “stab in the back”.

A spokesman for the French embassy in Washington denied that the United States had informed France of a new alliance between Washington, Canberra and London that would enable Australia to obtain American nuclear-powered submarines.

The French spokesman explained that his country was not informed of this project until after the first information was published in the American and Australian press, which preceded the official announcement of US President Joe Biden by a few hours.

And the French news agency quoted – an unnamed government official – that the authorities canceled a celebration that was scheduled for Friday evening at the residence of the French ambassador in Washington, after canceling the contract to supply Australia with French submarines.

For his part, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described Australia’s retreat from the submarine purchase deal as a stab in the back and a betrayal of the trust that Paris had given Canberra. In statements to France Info radio, he expressed his anger at the Australian position, stressing that the issue would not end as soon as Canberra announced the cancellation of the deal.

In 2016, Australia chose French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new $40 billion submarine fleet, replacing the more than two-decade-old Collins submarines.

Washington’s position

On the other hand, a White House official praised – in statements to Al Jazeera – the defense agreement between Washington, London and Canberra, stressing that his country is cooperating closely with Paris on common priorities in the Indo-Pacific region, and will continue to do so.

This official added that revitalizing alliances and partnerships to support the international system means strengthening long-standing historical relations “including with our allies in NATO and the European Union.”

The US official added that his country looks forward to working with the European Union to advance common goals in the region, including through dialogue on China.

And the French Press Agency quoted a senior White House official that senior officials in the US administration “were in contact with their French counterparts to discuss” the new military agreement with Australia “including before the announcement” which was issued on Wednesday.

“As President (Biden) said Wednesday, we are cooperating closely with France on our shared priorities in the Indo-Pacific and will continue to do so,” the official added, requesting anonymity.

For her part, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the United States welcomes competition with China, and does not seek conflict with it.

She added that her country will continue to work and cooperate with partners and allies in Europe to ensure the security of the Indo-Pacific region. She also noted Washington’s appreciation of relations with France, and indicated that Australia’s purchase of American technologies is a matter for Australians. She revealed that the Americans had spoken with French officials before completing the deal to sell the submarines to Australia.

Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken said that his country, Britain and Australia will strengthen their cooperation in the fields of defense and security, within the “Aukus” initiative announced by Biden. Blinken stressed that the initiative reflects the commitment of the three countries to protect peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Chinese concern

Wang Kun, China’s delegate to international organizations in Vienna, expressed Beijing’s deep concern about the announced assistance by the United States and Britain to Australia’s possession of nuclear-powered submarines.

During a speech before the meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Chinese delegate said that this step encourages nuclear proliferation, and that this is inconsistent with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The Chinese delegate called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to express openly its official position on Australia’s partnership with the United States and Britain to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, which contradicts the commitments of the three countries concerned, he said.

The United States and its allies are looking for ways to counter China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military build-up, pressure on Taiwan, and deployments in the disputed South China Sea.

For his part, the High Commissioner for Foreign Policies of the European Union Josep Borrell said that the time has become more urgent than ever for an independent decision for the Union, which preserves its sovereignty and makes it able to take decisions directly related to its interests.

Borrell added that there is a need to conclude a partnership with the South Pacific region, based on a program that includes defense cooperation, environmental diversity and security exchange.

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World News

Source : ألدستور

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