Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday he had raised the possibility of his country canceling a 2016 submarine deal with a French company in talks with French President Emmanuel Macron last June, rejecting French criticism that it had not received warnings.
The Australian statements came in response to French accusations of “stabbing her in the back”, after Morrison canceled a $40 billion deal with Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines, and that it would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with technology. American and British, after concluding a tripartite security partnership.
Morrison confirmed that France was informed of the decision before the announcement, but Paris denied it. On Friday, Morrison acknowledged the damage to relations between Australia and France, but insisted he had told Macron in June that Australia had revised its thinking about the deal and had to make another decision.
“I made clear during a dinner in Paris our concerns about the ability of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we face,” Morrison said in radio statements. “I have made it clear that this is an issue that Australia will have to decide on, in our national interest,” he added.
The strained relations between Australia and France come at a time when the United States and its allies are seeking additional support in Asia and the Pacific, amid fears of the growing influence of China.
France is about to take over the presidency of the European Union, which on Thursday released its strategy for the Indo-Pacific region, pledging to seek a trade deal with Taiwan and deploy more ships to keep sea routes open.