Britain’s defense minister said on Thursday that a new nuclear submarine pact between the United States, Britain and Australia did not herald a new Cold War between the West and China.
British defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the pact did not involve nuclear weapons and was not about China.
Asked by Times Radio if he thought the pact was part of a new Cold War with China, Wallace said: “No I don’t, and I think to call it a Cold War is out of date.”
“This is not about sending a message to China.”
France’s foreign minister expressed his anger Thursday over Australia’s surprise decision to scrap a huge submarines deal in favor of nuclear-powered subs from the US.
“It’s really a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio.
“I’m very angry today, and bitter... This is not something allies do to each other,” he said.
“This sudden and unforeseeable decision very much recalls what Mr Trump would do,” Le Drian added, referring to the previous US president Donald Trump.
US President Joe Biden announced Wednesday a new defense pact with Australia and Britain that would see Canberra get a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, a privilege reserved for few American allies.
The move underscore increasing concerns about China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region, where France is also looking to protect its interests that include the overseas territories of New Caledonia.
defense Minister Florence Parly on Thursday called Australia’s about-face “very bad news with regards to keeping one’s word,” while adding that France is “clear-eyed as to how the United States treats its allies.”
“In terms of geopolitics and international relations, it’s serious,” she told RFI radio.
For his part, Wallace said that a new submarine pact with the United States and Australia did not represent a strategic difference between Britain and France, although he understood Paris’s disappointment at the loss of the contract.
The new partnership ends Australia’s 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion.
The UK defense secretary told the BBC he had spoken to his French counterpart and said: “This is not about a strategic difference between Britain and France.”
“I understand France’s disappointment on its industrial contract.”