Leaders have spoken vaguely about the tension in the Indo-Pacific, but China believes it is an attempt to push it back, reports Rohit Kachroo, ITV News’ global security editor. .
France claims to have been “stabbed in the back” because of a new defense agreement dubbed Aukus, which was concluded between the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia.
The deal, which will see Britain and America help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, has also been criticized by China for a “cold war mentality” from which it suggests that the idea was born.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, held a televised press conference on Wednesday evening, saying the deal would help “maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region”.
But France denounced the alliance, saying Australia “betrayed” its trust by renouncing a previous submarine deal with the European nation in order to sign the new deal.
The ability of the United States to maintain its focus on China may be disrupted by future events in Afghanistan, Comments from Rohit Kachroo, Global Security Editor
Australia had agreed in 2016 that France would help build 12 conventional submarines, but following the deal with America and Britain, it notified France that it would end the contract. .
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in an interview with France Info, said he was “angry” that Australia had reneged on the agreement.
He said: “It really is a stab in the back. We have built a relationship of trust with Australia, and that trust has been betrayed and I’m angry today, with a lot of bitterness, about this breach (of contract).
“This is not done between allies, especially when there have been two years of negotiations for this contract. “
Prime Minister Johnson insisted that the UK’s military relations with France remain “rock solid”, despite comments from the Foreign Secretary.
Asked by Keir Starmer in the House of Commons on how the new Aukus alliance would affect relations with France, Mr Johnson said: “This government’s commitment to NATO is absolutely unwavering and has indeed been reinforced by the massive commitments we made, the biggest defense spending uprising since the Cold War.
Announcing the security deal, Biden said the alliance will secure a “free and open Indo-Pacific” to build a “future of peace, an opportunity for all people in the region”:
He said: “Our relationship with France, our military relationship with France, once again, Mr. President, is rock solid.
“And we are neck and neck with the French, whether it’s in the Sahel where we’re leading a joint operation against terrorists in Mali, or whether it’s in Estonia where we currently have NATO’s largest operation. ”
China called the new defense agreement “an irresponsible act” and raised questions about Australia’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.
Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, told a daily press conference that the cooperation “seriously undermines regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race, and undermines international efforts to to promote the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons ”.
Dr Henry Wang, chairman of the non-governmental think tank Center for China and Globalization (CCG), said the Aukus alliance was part of a “cold war mentality of the UK and its allies”.
On BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Dr Wang said: “I don’t think this is necessarily the right time to enter into this military alliance. It’s called security, but if it’s not aimed at China, why are they offering it now and in this region.
“I think there is a question about the purpose of building such an alliance in peacetime in the 21st century. “
There are reports that the attempt to secure Allied nuclear submarines in the Pacific is seen as a tool to “contain Chinese military expansion ”.
The UK Ministry of Defense said the Asia-Pacific region was “on the front lines of new security challenges,” troubled by territorial disputes, nuclear proliferation and miscalculations, climate change, terrorism and the great organized crime.
“I would like to thank that guy over there…” – Biden seems to forget the name of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the “Aukus” announcement:
Allies say they will spend 18 months designing and building the Royal Australian Navy’s nuclear submarines.
No date has been set for the start of submarine operations, but officials say they hope it can be done “as soon as possible.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The UK, Australia and the US are natural allies – although we may be geographically separated, our interests and values are shared. The AUKUS alliance will bring us closer than ever, creating a new defense partnership and creating jobs and prosperity.
“This partnership will become increasingly vital in defending our interests in the Indo-Pacific region and, by extension, protecting our returning people. “
Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom are already sharing intelligence through the Five Eyes alliance, said the partnership will also facilitate the integration and sharing of information in technological areas such as artificial intelligence. , cyber capabilities and underwater systems.
The UK has been building and operating nuclear powered submarines for over 60 years.
In recent years, the UK and Australia have intensified their defense collaboration, including joint training exercises, defense personnel collaboration and defense technology sharing.