ECONOMY

Diplomatic row erupts over security pact between US, UK and Australia


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rance has launched a furious attack on US president Joe Biden over the new security pact between the America, Australia and the UK.

The key Western ally accused Mr Biden of stabbing it in the back and acting like his predecessor Donald Trump after Paris was pushed aside from one of the world’s most lucrative defence deals that it had signed with Australia for submarines.

The United States, Britain and Australia said earlier they would establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific that will help Australia acquire US nuclear-powered submarines and scrap the $40 billion French-designed submarine deal.

“It’s really a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed,” France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio.

“I’m very angry today, and bitter… This is not something allies do to each other,” he said

“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do.”

In 2016 Australia selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.

Just two weeks ago, the Australian defence and foreign ministers had reconfirmed the deal to their French counterparts.

The pact will see the three nations share technology and intelligence and allow Australia to deploy a fleet of nuclear powered submarines, though Australian prime minister Morrison was at pains to point out they would not be armed with nuclear weapons.

Perhaps anticipating Paris’ reaction, Mr Biden said on Wednesday night that France remained a “key partner in the Indo-Pacific zone.”

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the pact was not a “betrayal” of the French.

“There will be a boost for the British defence industry in this collaboration because we have sub-systems that Australia doesn’t have that we will be able to offer into that,” Wallace told the BBC on Thursday.

He added that China would be wrong to interpret the new military pact formed between Britain, the US and Australia as an act of aggression.

He said: “I think they’re wrong. I mean, China invested in our civil nuclear power system here and no-one called that an act of the Cold War.

“In the Cold War everyone was stuck behind fences and didn’t really communicate with each other and certainly didn’t engage in global trade, and I think it’s probably a Cold War view to describe it as a cold war.”

Boris Johnson said the new security pact will make “the world safer” and create hundreds of jobs at home.

Speaking as part of a joint security statement given alongside Mr Biden and Mr Morrison on Wednesday evening, he said the three countries would be “working hand in glove to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific”.

The leaders outlined the deal in a three-way virtual announcement from each of their capitals.

Mr Johnson called it a momentous decision for Australia to acquire the technology.

“This will be one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world,” he said.

US officials said the partnership, which will also involve cooperation in areas including artificial intelligence, quantum technology and cyber, was “not aimed at any one country” but it will be widely seen as a reaction to the growing power of China in the region.

The pact, known as AUKUS, will involve Australia scrapping a multi-billion dollar program to build French-designed submarines and build its nuclear-powered fleet with U.S. and British technology instead.

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