France began doubting Australian submarine deal in June: report
The French government began doubting Australia’s commitment to a multibillion-dollar submarine deal between the two countries in June, Reuters reported, amid the ongoing fallout from last week’s announcement of a nuclear sub arrangement among Australia, the U.S. and the U.K.
“We started hearing echoes of Australian concerns about the execution of the contract from June,” an official from the Élysée Palace told Reuters.
According to the official, despite these reservations, there was no indication of Canberra backing out of the deal, with the French government being informed of the decision just hours before it was announced.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison even brought up the agreement when he was hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in mid-June, Reuters reported, but gave no indication that he was thinking of backing out.
“Morrison said nothing to suggest this and they agreed to continue working. The president later wrote at length to Morrison to address his concerns,” the French official said.
The trilateral security partnership among the U.S., the U.K. and Australia was announced Wednesday, a thinly veiled effort to confront China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. As part of the agreement, Australia is expected to build at least eight nuclear submarines.
“The future of each of our nations and indeed the world depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead,” President Biden said in announcing the deal, which infuriated Paris. “This is about investing in our greatest source of strength — our alliances — and updating them to better meet the threats of today and tomorrow.”
In protest of the partnership, the French government pulled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia, canceled a gala in the U.S. and accused Biden of behaving like his predecessor, former President Trump.
Australia has so far remained resolute in its decision, with Morrison saying he does not regret putting “Australia’s national interest first.”
The nuclear submarine deal has also brought on the ire of Asian countries in the region, including China and North Korea.
Chinese President Xi Jinping alluded to it in remarks last week, urging heads of state in the region to “absolutely resist external forces to interfere [in] countries in our region at any excuse, and hold the future of our countries’ development and progress firmly in our own hands.”
A North Korean Foreign Ministry official was quoted by state-run media as saying, “These are extremely undesirable and dangerous acts which will upset the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and trigger off a chain of nuclear arms race.”