Melbourne, September 19 (BNA) The Australian Minister of Defense said, on Sunday, that Australia has been “frank, open and honest” with France about its concerns about a deal for French submarines, with a new agreement with the United States and Britain continuing to inflame matters. A multinational diplomatic crisis.
Australia has abandoned a 2016 agreement with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines, and on Thursday announced a plan to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines using US and British technology in a trilateral security partnership, Reuters reported.
On Sunday, Australia’s defense minister said Australia had been “candid, open and honest” with France about its concerns over a French submarine deal, as a new deal with the United States and Britain continues to fuel a multinational diplomatic crisis.
Australia has abandoned a 2016 agreement with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines, and on Thursday announced a plan to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines using US and British technology in a three-way security partnership. The move infuriated France, an ally of the United States and Britain in the North Atlantic Treaty, which prompted it to recall its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, and angered China, the main rising power in the Indo-Pacific region.
The deal has put Washington in an unprecedented diplomatic crisis with France that analysts say could damage the US alliance with France and Europe, casting doubt on the united front the Biden administration is seeking to forge against the growing power of China. Paris called the cancellation a stab in the back, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying relations with the United States and Australia were in a “crisis”.
But Defense Minister Peter Dutton said on Sunday that Australia had raised concerns with France over the two-year order – which was worth $40 billion in 2016 and is believed to cost much more today. “Suggestions that the Australian government has not communicated these concerns are challenging, frankly, what is on public records and certainly what they have said publicly over a long period of time,” Dutton told Sky News.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday he had expressed “very significant concerns” about the deal to French President Emmanuel Macron in June and made clear that Australia “will need to make a decision in our national interest”. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia had informed France of the agreement but acknowledged on Sunday that the negotiations were confidential due to “enormous sensitivities”.
Dutton and Birmingham declined to reveal the costs of the new agreement, although Dutton said it “would not be a cheap project”.