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France, China Vexed With US, UK, Australia Defence Pact

French Minister Of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-yves Le Drian
French Minister Of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-yves Le Drian

September 16, (THEWILL) – France is reacting with anger after being left out of an agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia to give Australia nuclear-powered submarines.

The announcement of the partnership is widely perceived as a challenge to China’s authority in the region, and the Chinese embassy quickly responded to the news.

“Exchanges and cooperation between countries should help expand mutual understanding and trust,” the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. said in a statement.

“Countries should do more things that are conducive to solidarity and cooperation among countries and regional peace and stability. Meanwhile they should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties. In particular, they should shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice.”

Meanwhile, in a statement issued by French Minister Of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-yves Le Drian and Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, Paris said the decision “is contrary to the letter and spirit of the cooperation that prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust as well as on the development of a very high-level defence industrial and technological base in Australia.”

“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, whether in terms of our values or in terms of respect for multilateralism based on the rule of law, shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret,” the statement continued.

The statement went on to call the announcement “regrettable.”

“The regrettable decision that has just been announced regarding the FSP program only reinforces the need to make the issue of European strategic autonomy loud and clear,” the joint statement said. “There is no other credible way to defend our interests and our values in the world, including in the Indo-Pacific.”

France added that it is the “only European nation present in the Indo-Pacific with nearly two million citizens and more than 7,000 military personnel.”

Earlier in the day, U.S. President Biden joined British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in announcing the creation of  an enhanced trilateral security partnership, called “AUKUS,” which involves sharing highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology with Australia.

“As the first initiative under AUKUS, recognizing our common tradition as maritime democracies, we commit to a shared ambition to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy,” the White House said.

“Today, we embark on a trilateral effort of 18 months to seek an optimal pathway to deliver this capability. We will leverage expertise from the United States and the United Kingdom, building on the two countries’ submarine programs to bring an Australian capability into service at the earliest achievable date.”

During the announcement, Biden referred to France as having a “substantial Indo-Pacific presence” and a “key partner and ally in strengthening the security and prosperity of the region.”

“The United States looks forward to working closely with France and other key countries as we go forward,” Biden said.