Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s comments on Thursday came a day after the United States, United Kingdom and Australia announced they would establish an Indo-Pacific security partnership that will help Australia to acquire American nuclear submarines.
The pact, dubbed Aukus, is seen as an attempt to counter China, although the three leaders did not explicitly mention Beijing in their remarks on Wednesday when they revealed the move.
Aukus means a multibillion-dollar contract Australia signed in 2016 to buy French diesel-powered submarines will now be scrapped.
Le Drian said he was “angry and bitter” about the decision, calling it a breach of trust.
“This brutal, one-sided and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump was doing,” he told Franceinfo radio. “It doesn’t happen between allies.
‘Stab in the back’
Two weeks ago, the Australian Defense and Foreign Ministers reconfirmed in Paris the 2016 agreement with the French shipbuilder Naval Group to replace the French Collins submarines, more than two decades old.
French President Emmanuel Macron also hailed decades of future cooperation when hosting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in June.
“It’s a stab in the back. We have created a relationship of trust with Australia and that trust has been severed, ”said Le Drian.
When asked if Paris had been “duped” by Washington on what Le Drian called a “contract of the century” for French shipyards, the minister replied: “Your analysis of the situation is more or less correct. .
“We will need clarification. We have contracts – the Australians have to tell us how they plan to do it, ”he said.
London defends the pact
But British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace backed the new submarine pact, saying it did not represent a strategic difference between London and Paris.
“The Australians have made this decision that they want to make a change,” he told the BBC on Thursday.
“We didn’t go fishing for that, but as a close ally, when the Australians approached us, of course we considered it. I understand France’s frustration on this subject.
Ties between Paris and Washington have deteriorated during Trump’s presidency, and diplomats say there have been concerns in recent months that Biden is not being outspoken with his European allies.
The deal with Australia is likely to further strain transatlantic relations.
It was born amid growing concern in Western capitals over China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region, where France also has interests, including overseas territories.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Thursday accused the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom of “gravely undermining regional peace and stability, of stepping up a race for weapons and undermine international nuclear non-proliferation efforts ”with their pact.
“China will closely monitor developments,” he said during a regular briefing in Beijing.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday sought to play down Chinese fears.
Johnson told Parliament the move, which is part of a new defense alliance between Britain, Australia and the United States, was “not meant to be contradictory.”
It “will help safeguard the peace and security of the Indo-Pacific,” he said, adding that the agreement reflects “the close relationship we have with the United States and with Australia, shared values that we have and the level of trust ”.