Australian Prime Minister says he warned France that the submarine deal could be canceled

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday that he had raised the possibility that Australia could scrap a 2016 submarine deal with a French company in talks with the French president in June, rejecting French criticism that he had not been warned.

Australia said on Thursday it would scrap the $ 40 billion deal with the French Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with American and British technology after establishing a partnership of trilateral security.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the decision as a stab in the back.

On Thursday, Morrison said France had been informed of the decision before the announcement, but France denied it.

Morrison on Friday acknowledged the damage to ties between Australia and France, but insisted that he had told French President Emmanuel Macron in June that Australia had revised its thinking on the deal and may have to make another decision.

“I made it very clear, we had a long dinner there in Paris, about our very important concerns about the capabilities of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment that we face,” Morrison told 5aa Radio.

“I made it very clear that this was a matter that Australia would have to make a decision on in our national interest,” he said.

The strained ties between Australia and France come as the United States and its allies seek additional support in Asia and the Pacific amid concerns about the growing influence of a more assertive China.

France is about to assume the presidency of the European Union, which on Thursday unveiled its Indo-Pacific strategy, pledging to seek a trade agreement with Taiwan and to deploy more ships to keep shipping lanes open.

(REUTERS)