France has reignited tense diplomatic relations with Australia after President Emmanuel Macron warned that Canberra risked a “nuclear confrontation” with China by opting to purchase nuclear-powered submarines. A year ago, Australia pulled out of a deal with France to build 12 conventional submarines and announced that Britain and the US would be providing it nuclear-powered vessels instead.
However, speaking on Thursday, Mr Macron predicted that the multi-billion dollar AUKUS security pact “will not deliver”.
He also insisted that the French submarine deal was “still on the table”.
Speaking to reporters in Bangkok, Mr Macron said that Canberra’s original deal with France was “not confrontational to China because they are not nuclear-powered submarines”.
Mr Macron also blasted the actions of then-Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for agreeing to the AUKUS deal.
He said: “But the choice made by prime minister Morrison was the opposite, re-entering into nuclear confrontation, making himself completely dependent by deciding to equip themselves [with a] submarine fleet that the Australians are incapable of producing and maintaining in-house.”
Last year, Mr Macron accused Mr Morrison of lying to him by not informing him until the last minute that the contract for the submarines was going to be cancelled.
This week the French President reiterated his claim that Mr Morrison had been economical with the truth insisting “I don’t think, I know.”
Although the comments were aimed at Mr Morrison and his Liberal administration, his most recent comments were also aimed at Anthony Albanese’s Labor Government which is sticking with AUKUS.
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The Australian Prime Minister added that his Government was “proceeding with the AUKUS arrangements”, emphasising “there’s nothing ambiguous about it”.
Australia has promised to announce which form of nuclear-powered submarine it will purchase by March.
However, it is expected to opt for a US model rather than a British one.
Canberra has insisted that the agreement will comply with Australia’s nuclear proliferation obligations as the submarines will not be armed with nuclear weapons.