European Union leaders have rallied behind France against a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with Australia, while Canberra signed a tripartite Asia-Pacific security agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom.
The security deal, known as the AUKUS, includes the sale of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia and strained relations between the West before the start of this week’s annual meeting of world leaders for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
Speaking after a closed-door meeting on the sidelines of the summit, EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell said achieving a stable and peaceful Indo-Pacific region requires “more cooperation, more coordination, less division” where China is a major emerging power. .
Borrell said the bloc’s foreign ministers had “expressed clear solidarity with France”.
“The announcement is in response to calls for greater cooperation with the European Union in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
Earlier on Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused the United States of treason and stabbing Australia.
Le Dryen called on Europeans to “think hard” about the alliance and accused the administration of US President Joe Biden of “unilateralism, unpredictability, barbarism and disrespect for your partner” by his predecessor Donald Trump.
The United States has sought to quell anger in NATO ally France, and Biden is scheduled to speak by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron in the next few days.
“We are allies, we talk and we do not hide a wide range of tactics. That is why there is a crisis of confidence, “said Le Dryan. “It simply came to our notice then. This may take some time. ”
Australia signed an agreement in 2011 to buy French diesel-powered submarines. The AUKUS agreement annulled the agreement if it gave Australia access to US technology on nuclear-powered ships.
France has for years pushed for a European strategy to boost economic, political and defense ties in the Indo-Pacific region, extending from India and China to Japan and New Zealand. The EU also announced its plans for the Indo-Pacific region last week.
‘Is America back?’
Biden is scheduled to address the United Nations on Tuesday, and he hopes to turn the page on Trump’s troubled presidency and reassure traditional traditional allies in the face of a growing China.
China, which already has nuclear-powered submarines, has condemned the deal, with President Xi Jinping warning on Friday of “external energy interference” in the region.
China claims Taiwan as its own, is embroiled in maritime disputes with Japan, and claims almost everything in the South China Sea, where it has built artificial islands for military bases. It has rejected competitive claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, and criticized the so-called “freedom of navigation” operation in the region by the US Navy.
European Council President Charles Mitchell said the move by Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States was difficult to understand.
“Why? Because the new Joe Biden administration is back in America. This was the historic message sent by the new administration and now we have the question. What does it mean – America is back? Is America back in America or somewhere else? We don’t know, “he told reporters in New York.
“We notice a clear lack of transparency and loyalty.”
U.S. officials say Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, a fluent French speaker who grew up in Paris, tried to break with the agreement Friday in a conversation with the French ambassador in Washington.
The ambassador was later summoned to Paris in protest. France has also withdrawn its top diplomat in Canberra.
Asked if there would be a bilateral meeting between Blinken and Le Drian, senior State Department official Erica Barks-Ragles said “the schedule will remain dynamic”.