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China and France left the smoke after US nuclear deal with Australia

China and France left the smoke after US nuclear deal with Australia

HONG KONG – America’s new security alliance with Australia and Britain will always be met with rage by China, the unspoken target of Washington’s recent efforts to bolster its influence in the region.

And that was that. But the pact also agitated France, a longtime ally that felt its Indo-Pacific interests had been torpedoed by the submarine-centric deal.

The French canceled a gala in Washington DC scheduled for Friday to mark the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Capes, a critical French river victory that helped the colonists win the American Revolution, the French embassy confirmed.

At a news conference on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the pact “severely undermined regional peace and stability, exacerbated the arms race and undermined international nuclear proliferation efforts.”

Zhao added that any regional alliance “should not target or harm the interests of third parties.”

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In a briefing before Wednesday night’s announcement, an official from the Biden administration stressed that the pact “is not aimed at a single country.”

But the AUKUS agreement comes as the United States intensifies its efforts to counter China.

It will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time using technology that the United States had only previously shared with Britain. The pact also allows for greater cooperation between the three countries on cyber capabilities and artificial intelligence as well as in other areas.

It will also make Australia the seventh country in the world with nuclear-powered submarines after the United States, Britain, France, China, India and Russia. Unlike the other countries, Australia does not have nuclear weapons.

“The US has only ever shared this technology with the UK, so the fact that Australia is now joining this club indicates that the US is ready to take significant new steps and break with old norms to meet China’s challenge,” says Sam Roggeveen, director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, said in a statement shared with NBC News.

Relations between Beijing and Canberra have been in a downward spiral, with US allies emerging as a key bulwark in the West’s efforts to combat China’s growing influence.

China, Australia’s largest trading partner, has in turn launched a trade war.


There are now few prospects for improved ties, which the Australian government will have taken into account, according to Malcolm Davis, senior analyst in defense strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra, the Australian capital.

“I think China is likely to increase the pressure on us as a result of this, but honestly we need to do this to ensure our security,” he said.

But it is not just China that was annoyed by the deal.

France also expressed outrage after the deal brought its own deal to build submarines to Australia, inked in 2016, to an abrupt end.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly expressed their dissatisfaction in a joint statement.

“The US choice to exclude a European ally and partner like France from a structured partnership with Australia at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo – Pacific,” they said, “shows a lack of coherence that France has. can only take notes and apologize. “

A visibly angry Le Drian later described the message as “a stab in the back.”

“This brutal, one-sided and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” he said on France-Info radio.

“We built a relationship of trust with Australia and that trust was betrayed,” he added. “This is not done between allies.”

Photo: Royal Australian Navy (Naoya Masuda / Yomiuri Shimbun via AP file)

Parly said Thursday that the government would try to minimize the economic impact of the canceled deal on submarine manufacturer Naval Group, which is mostly state-owned.

Asked whether France would seek compensation from Australia, she did not rule it out.

Being put on the sidelines of the new alliance was a “big disappointment” for French trade, according to Frédéric Charillon, professor of political science at France’s Clermont Auvergne University.

“But what is probably more worrying now is … the lack of trust that is now growing between the Biden administration and at least some of the European alliance, including France,” he said.

Washington seems to nurture “the impression that the new administration may not be so different from the last one,” Charillon added.

In New Zealand, opposition leaders questioned why Australia’s neighbor and close allies had been left out.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her government had not been contacted as part of the pact, “I would not expect that we would be either.”

But she added that any nuclear-powered submarine acquired by Australia would not be allowed in the country’s territorial waters, as its long-standing nuclear-free policy bans access to nuclear-powered vessels.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that despite the fierce sentiments among both rivals and some allies, this was simply an option his country could not rule out.

The benefits of nuclear submarines were clear, he said: “They are faster, they have greater power, greater stealth, more carrying capacity.”

“The Australians would expect me as Prime Minister to ensure that we have the best possible ability to protect them and be unhindered from pursuing it as best we can,” he added. “And that’s what I did.”

Jennifer Jett reported from Hong Kong, and Chantal Da Silva reported from Toronto.

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