BALI — French President Emmanuel Macron accused former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday of provoking “nuclear confrontation” with China, according to local media.
Talking ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Thailand, the French president said he has helped Australia achieve “freedom and sovereignty” through the submarine deal, ABC News reported.
“We were helping and accompanying Australia in building a submarine fleet in-house, an industrial cooperation,” Macron said, quoting by the broadcaster.
His remarks came just a day after he met with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.
“So it was both industrial cooperation and giving sovereignty to Australia, because they will maintain the submarines themselves, and it is not confrontational to China because they are not nuclear-powered submarines.
“But the choice made by (former) Prime Minister Morrison was the opposite, re-entering into nuclear confrontation, making himself completely dependent by deciding to equip themselves (with a) submarine fleet that the Australians are incapable of producing and maintaining in-house,” he added.
Diplomatic relations between France and Australia soured last September when Australia signed the AUKUS deal with the US and UK to get nuclear-powered submarines.
Australia also canceled its Future Submarine Program (FSP) with France’s Naval Group to buy 12 submarines worth €56 billion ($57.2 billion).
The decision irked Macron and his government, who expressed their dismay over the deal.
The three-country agreement was forged to ensure Australia’s security in the region – a growing area of concern due to China’s continued economic and military expansion.
On June 11, Albanese announced that his country will pay the French Naval Group €555 million (about $567 million) in compensation for scrapping the deal. — Agencies