French FM Slams AUKUS Pact, Says Transferring Military Nuclear Tech Outside P-5 A ‘Trend of Concern’
17:07 GMT 24.11.2021 (Updated: 18:35 GMT 19.10.2022)
On 15 September, Australia, the UK, and US announced the AUKUS trilateral partnership. The pact's first initiative will see Australia getting advanced nuclear technology from the US and the UK building at least eight submarines by 2040. China, the perceived target of the AUKUS pact, has accused the US of “inciting” an arms race in the region.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Wednesday slammed the US and the United Kingdom over the tri-national AUKUS pact for “breaking away from the tradition” of not transferring advanced military nuclear technology to countries which are not permanent members of the UN Security Council.
“It shows a trend of concern,” Le Drian said through an English interpreter, answering a question on the AUKUS pact, after delivering an address at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Indonesia.
The French minister is on a two-day visit to the south-east Asian nation to cement his country's relations with nations in the 'Indo-Pacific' after being locked out of the strategic defence deal to build diesel-electric submarines for Australia.
Although the European Union's Indo-Pacific strategy document calls for “boosting Indo-Pacific partners’ capacity to ensure maritime security”, it also advocates “intensifying dialogues” among nations on “non-proliferation and disarmament”
“The AUKUS announcement came out of the blue. We had the feeling of being cheated… We heard about the announcement through a press conference,” said Le Drian. The minister said that the pact created a “trust crisis” between historical allies, referring to France and the US.
“That’s why we recalled our ambassador from the United States [in the wake of the AUKUS announcement]. It was only after the US made some solid commitments about European defence and our partnership in the Indo-Pacific that we sent our envoy back,” recalled the French minister.
France recalled its ambassadors from the US and Australia after the AUKUS announcement, sending them back only after communicating its grievances to the leaderships of both the English-speaking countries.
23 November 2021, 07:54 GMT
In the immediate aftermath of the AUKUS announcement, France described Canberra’s decision to ditch a 2016-era $60 billion contract to supply 12 submarines to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) as a “stab in the back”
Since then, Paris has doubled down on its commitments with other allies in the region, including Indonesia, India and Vietnam.
French President Emmanuel Macron met his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of last month’s G-20 Summit in Rome in an attempt to boost cooperation in the region.
During his visit to Indonesia, the French foreign minister also reportedly pressed for sealing the deal to sell 36 Rafale fighter jets
to the Indonesian Air Force. Strengthening military cooperation between the two nations also figured in discussions between the French foreign minister and his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi. The two nations also signed the ‘Plan of Action for Deepening of Strategic Partnership 2022-2027’ during the visit.
Although Indonesia has criticised the AUKUS pact and said that the region
should “remain nuclear-free”, its defence minister said at a forum this week that every country has the right to protect themselves if they feel “threatened”.