Australia says France was aware of “serious” underwater concerns – NBC4 Washington
France would have known Australia had “deep and serious concerns” that a fleet of submarines the French were building would not meet Australian needs, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday after contract cancellation sparked a diplomatic crisis.
France accused Australia of concealing its intentions to withdraw from the contract of 90 billion Australian dollars (66 billion dollars) passed to Naval Group, majority owned by the French state, for the construction of 12 sub- conventional diesel-electric sailors.
President Joe Biden last week revealed a new alliance comprising Australia and Britain that would deliver an Australian fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.
Morrison blamed the change on a deteriorating strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific. He did not specifically mention China’s massive military build-up, which has accelerated in recent years.
“The capability that the Attack Class submarines were going to provide was not what Australia needed to protect our sovereign interests,” said Morrison.
“They would have had every reason to know that we are deeply concerned that the capability provided by the Attack-class submarine does not meet our strategic interests and we have made it clear that we will make a decision based on our strategic national interest. “, He added, referring to the French government.
France has responded to the cancellation of the contract, which Morrison says will cost his government at least A $ 2.4 billion ($ 1.7 billion), recalling its ambassadors from Australia and the United States .
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Saturday denounced what he called the “duplicity, contempt and lies” surrounding the sudden end of the contract and said France was now questioning the strength of the ‘alliance.
China has denounced the sharing of this American and British nuclear technology as irresponsible.
France won the contract in 2016 on the offers from Germany and Japan. The Shortfin Barracuda was to be a nuclear submarine designed to be powered by diesel on the surface and battery powered underwater.
Japan was particularly disappointed because then Prime Minister Tony Abbott had promised the close defense ally the contract before he was ousted by his own party in 2015.
The government has denied media reports of disagreements between partners in the French submarine project and delays from the initial delivery date of 2027.
There have been concerns about an emerging defense capability gap that the aging Australian-made Collins-class conventional submarines could not fill.
Australia’s first nuclear submarines are not expected to be delivered until 2040.
Defense Minister Peter Dutton has said his government is ready to lease nuclear submarines from the United States while the Australian fleet is built.
Dutton and Foreign Secretary Marise Payne are in the United States for annual meetings with their American counterparts and their first with the Biden administration.
Morrison is flying to the United States on Monday for a meeting with Biden and the Indian and Japanese leaders who make up the Quad Security Forum.