Aukus: France expresses outrage over submarine deal cancellation

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The breakdown of the French-Australian submarine deal last week came as a surprise to France, France’s ambassador to the United States, Philippe Etienne, said this on Monday.

Etienne said French Cabinet ministers were not given any indication the agreement would be cancelled when they met with their Australian counterparts just days before Canberra announced an alternative deal with the US and United Kingdom.

“We absolutely weren’t informed of the new course,” Etienne said.

The French government reacted with fury after Australia abandoned its $90 billion Australian dollars ($65 billion) submarine deal with France in favour of a new military agreement with the US and the UK.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his decision to cancel the deal with Paris on Sunday, saying Australia had “deep and grave concerns” about the submarines which were being built by France.

As part of the pact, known as AUKUS, Australia will be supplied with the technology to construct a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, considered to be superior to the conventionally powered vessels Canberra had previously agreed to buy from Paris. In response to the loss of its submarine contract, France recalled its ambassadors to the US and Australia on Friday, a dramatic show of dissatisfaction.

Analysts say nuclear-powered submarines can carry more firepower farther from Australian shores for much longer periods than conventionally powered subs. That means they can be effective in areas like the South China Sea, where Australia is helping partners including the US push back against Chinese territorial claims, and north to areas around Taiwan and Japan.

“As soon as we learned Wednesday morning (of the new deal), I demanded to be seen, I was seen,” by the White House, Etienne said. “(But) it was a little late.”

French-Australian submarine deal

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