TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said France was informed of its decision to scrap the US$40 billion (NT$1.11 trillion) deal with the European country’s Naval Group ahead of time.
Canberra has instead opted to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines using U.S. and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership, according to a Reuters report. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the move as a stab in the back and denies having prior knowledge of the cancelation.
On Friday (Sept. 17) Morrison lamented the hit Australia-France relations had taken but insisted he had told French President Emmanuel Macron in June that Australia had changed its thinking on the deal and may have to opt out.
"We had a lengthy dinner there in Paris, about our very significant concerns about the capabilities of conventional submarines to deal with the new strategic environment we're faced with," Morrison said in a radio interview.
"I made it very clear that this was a matter that Australia would need to make a decision on in our national interest," he added.
Strained Australia-French ties come as the U.S. and its allies seek additional support in the Indo-Pacific, amid growing concern about Chinese aggression. France is about to take over the presidency of the EU, which on Thursday released its strategy for the Indo-Pacific, which includes plans for a trade deal with Taiwan and deploying more ships to keep sea routes open in the region.