France felt ‘fooled’ by Australia after its military pact with US, UK
Sydney, Australia, Sep 20 (EFE).- France’s ambassador to Australia said on Monday that his country felt “fooled” by Australia after its recent decision to end its multibillion-dollar contract with the French company Naval Group for the construction of 12 conventional submarines.
“We discover through [the] press that the most important person of this Australian government kept us in the dark intentionally until the last minute. This is not an Australian attitude towards France. And maybe we’re not friends,” Jean-Pierre Thebault said in an interview with ABC from Paris.
The suspension of the $66 billion contract with Naval Group came to light after the announcement last week of a defense agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS), which includes the development of nuclear-powered submarines for Canberra.
The French government on Friday announced the recall of its ambassadors to the US and Australia in protest of the new deal.
“This was a plot in the making for 18 months. At the same time while we were engaged with making the best of this [submarine] program where France committed its most well-kept military secrets … there was a complete other project that we discovered, thanks to the press, one hour before the announcement. So you can imagine our anger – we felt fooled,” Thebault added.
Thebault said that the French government was the last to learn of Australia’s agreement with the US and the UK and stressed that “it’s a question of principle, it’s a question of dignity and mutual respect in relations between states.”
Last week, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused Australia and the US of “lying, duplicity, a major breach of trust and contempt.”
Some countries in the Indo-Pacific region have expressed concern at the signing of the ambitious AUKUS defense agreement, which will equip the Oceanian country’s fleet with nuclear-powered submarines.
North Korea on Monday condemned the move, describing the pact and the submarine plan as “extremely undesirable and dangerous acts which will upset the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region and trigger off a chain of nuclear arms race.”
Meanwhile, Malaysia and Indonesia said on Sunday that the agreement could cause other powers to act more aggressively in the region, especially in the troubled South China Sea. EFE