France has announced that it is recalling its ambassadors from the US and Australia for consultations over the AUKUS Indo-Pacific security deal that will result in Australia getting the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines.
Before entering the agreement with the US and the UK, Australia cancelled a 2016 deal worth $37bn deal to build 12 conventional submarines.
In a statement, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the AUKUS pact as a “stab in the back” and “betrayal” saying that the cancellation of the submarines agreement was “unacceptable behaviour”.
Le Drian said that France was recalling its envoys on the request from French President Emmanuel Macron. He said that the decision to recall the envoys, “is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by Australia and the US.
The top French diplomat compared US President Joe Biden’s move to his predecessor Donald Trump’s doctrine of “America First”, saying that the deal’s “consequences directly affect the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.”
In response, a White House official said the Biden administration regretted the recalling of the ambassadors and Washington would engage with France in the coming days to resolve their differences.
Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she understood the “disappointment” in France and hoped to work with the country to ensure it understood “the value we place on the bilateral relationship”.
Earlier today, the Australian government expressing its regret over France’s decision, said, “We note with regret France’s decision to recall its Ambassador to Australia. Australia values its relationship with France … We look forward to engaging with France again on our many issues of shared interest, based on shared values.”
The agreement – announced on Wednesday – is an apparent attempt at countering China’s influence in the disputed South China Sea. France says it was informed of the alliance only hours before the public announcement was made. A recall of ambassadors is highly unusual between allies and it is the first time France has recalled envoys from the two countries, which it considers its oldest allies.
France has been at the forefront of pushing for a European strategy for boosting economic, political, and defence ties in the Indo-Pacific region for years and the European Union unveiled its plan for the region this week.
Meanwhile, China has accused the three powers involved in the AUKUS alliance of being hung up on a “Cold War mentality”.