US moves to assure ‘vital partner’ France over submarine pact

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At news conference with Australian officials, Secretary of State Antony Blinken says US ‘strongly’ welcomes European countries’ role in the Indo-Pacific.

France remains a “vital partner” to the United States on many issues, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, as he sought to allay Paris’s anger at a security partnership between the US, the United Kingdom and Australia that did not include the European Union country.

At a joint news conference with top US and Australian officials on Thursday, Blinken said the US is looking to “find every opportunity” to deepen cooperation with France, including in the Indo-Pacific region.

It came a day after the announcement of a trilateral security alliance, dubbed “AUKUS”, that will see the US and the UK help produce nuclear-powered submarines for the Australian military.

“We strongly, strongly welcome European countries playing an important role in the Indo-Pacific,” Blinken said. “We look forward to continued close cooperation with NATO, with the EU and others in this endeavor.”

The top US diplomat stressed the importance of the alliance between the US and France.

“France, in particular, is a vital partner on this and on so many other things – stretching back a long, long time, but also stretching forward into the future,” he said.

France furious

The new partnership left France, which had its own submarines deal with Australia, fuming.

On Thursday, Australian Prime Scott Morrison confirmed halting the 2016 deal to buy diesel-powered submarines designed by the French firm Naval Group, saying that conventional submarines have become “unsuited” to the country’s operational needs because of “accelerating changes to regional security”.

He said the decision was not taken lightly. “As like-minded liberal democracies, Australia and France share a common commitment to the rules-based global order that has delivered stability and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific,” Morrison added.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defence Minister Florence Parly said in a joint statement that Australia’s decision “heightens the need to raise loud and clear the issue of European strategic autonomy”.

Al Jazeera

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