Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government has decided to invest in US nuclear-powered submarines and forgo its contract with France to build diesel-electric submarines due to an environment modified strategy
As a result, Australia notified France that it would end its contract with majority state-owned DCNS to build 12 of the world’s largest conventional submarines. Australia has spent AU $ 2.4 billion ($ 1.8 billion) on the project since the French won the contract in 2016.
Morrison said US nuclear submarine technology was not an option open to Australia when the AU $ 56 billion ($ 43 billion) deal was reached in 2016. The United States n ‘had so far shared the technology only with Britain.
Morrison said he told French President Emanuel Macron in June that there were “very real issues as to whether a conventional submarine capability” would meet Australia’s strategic security needs in the Indo-Pacific.
“Of course they’re disappointed,” Morrison said. “They’ve been good partners. It’s about our strategic interest, our strategic capability needs and a changed strategic environment and we had to make that decision.”
Australia had yet to decide which class of submarine it would choose and did not know how much the nuclear fleet would cost, Morrison said.
But Morrison said Australia’s defense budget will exceed the current 2.2% of gross domestic product.
The first of the 97-meter (318-foot) Shortfin Barracuda submarines, a suitable French nuclear submarine, was due for delivery in 2027.
Morrison said he expected the first of the nuclear submarines, to be built in the Australian city of Adelaide, to be built within a decade.
Senior French officials have made it clear that they are not happy with the deal.
“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner like France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are faced with unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, whether in terms of our values or in terms of respect for multilateralism. founded on the rule of law, shows a lack of coherence that France can only observe and regret, ”said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly in a joint press release.
New Zealand, Australia’s neighbor in the South Pacific, has been excluded from the new alliance. This includes banning nuclear-powered ships from entering New Zealand ports, a position that has at times opposed him to the United States.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that New Zealand had not been invited to join the alliance and would not have expected an invitation.
“The centerpiece, the anchor of this arrangement are nuclear powered submarines,” Ardern said. “And it will be very clear to all New Zealanders, and to Australia, why New Zealand would not want to be a part of this project.”
Ardern said the new alliance did not diminish its close ties with the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada, which had been strengthened through the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement.
Morrison said Ardern was the first foreign leader he called on to explain the new alliance. He later called the rulers of Japan and India. The two countries combined with the United States and Australia form the Quad Security Dialogue.
“She was my first call because of the strength of our relationship and the relationship between our countries,” Morrison said. “Everyone in the region will benefit from the peace, stability and security that this partnership will bring to our region. “
The Chinese government has long suspended minister-to-minister contacts with Australia due to deteriorated bilateral relations. But Morrison said he was ready to discuss the new alliance with President Xi Jinping.
“There is an open invitation to President Xi to discuss these and many other issues,” Morrison said.
“I believe and hope that we will both share the same goal of a peaceful Indo-Pacific where the sovereignty and independence of nations are understood and respected and which allows their own citizens to flourish,” said he added.
PA reporter Nick Perry in Wellington, New Zealand, contributed to this report.