‘A stab in the back’: France furious about major nuclear submarine deal

Chines Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the move “gravely undermines regional peace and stability,” and “aggravates” the arms race, while his French counterpart said the scrapping of a $90 billion submarine contract was a “stab in the back”.

Mr Zhao warned the nation would “only end up hurting their own interests” if they didn’t abandon the “cold war mentality”.

A US Navy Virginia class nuclear submarine. (US Navy) (US Navy)

He said the move was a “geopolitical gaming tool” and called it “extremely irresponsible.”

The Australian government says it is responding to Beijing’s own massive military build-up, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison warning of “a new era with new challenges.”

But the landmark military deal has also angered Australia’s close ally France, through the scrapping of a a $90 billion deal with French submarine maker Naval Group struck in 2016.

France is furious, demanding explanations from all sides.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was “angry”, saying the move was something that was “just not done between allies” and comparing the “unilateral, brutal, unpredictable” decision to former US president Donald Trump’s decision making.

“It was really a stab in the back,” he said on France-Info radio.

“We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed.

“This is not the end of the story.”

Former French ambassador to Israel GĂ©rard Araud had made a similar point on Twitter the night before.

Mr Morrison said the trilateral alliance, called AUKUS, was the most significant pact Australia had entered since the ANZUS treaty with the US and New Zealand.

It’s the first time since the 50s, the US has shared the sensitive nuclear-powered submarine technology – that time with the UK.

Experts said the move was all about China.

“This is about the consequential democracies of the world reacting to an aggressive China which is seeking to push those democracies out of the Indo Pacific,” Peter Jennings, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said he wanted to know how much it was costing to abandon that program.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new alliance would allow the three nations to sharpen their focus on an increasingly complicated part of the world.

He said that perhaps most significantly, it would bond the three nations even more closely together.

ANZUS partner New Zealand, with its a longstanding nuclear-free policy that includes a ban on nuclear-powered ships entering its ports, is not part of the deal.

The anti-nuclear stance has sometimes been a sticking point in otherwise close relations with the US.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand wasn’t asked to be part of the alliance and wouldn’t have expected an invitation.

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