America, the U.K., and Australia agreed this week that permits the construction and deployment of eight Australian nuclear submarines. The new partnership is seen as a move against China’s growing aggression in the greater Pacific region. The pact marks the first time the U.S. has shared nuclear submarine technology with another nation since 1958.
China has the largest navy globally, and intelligence indicates that it has been expanding its nuclear weapons capabilities rapidly in recent years.
A Chinese spokesman said that the submarine agreement is “severely damaging” to peace in the region and intensifies an arms race. The agreement appears to give Australia a distinct advantage in recent trade war activities between that country and China.
The new deal looks to end a proposed $90 billion contract between Australia and a French defense contractor for at least twelve diesel submarines. The nuclear submarines contemplated under the new agreement have far greater capabilities than the more extensive fleet contemplated under the contract with the French firm.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the new American agreement is “unacceptable” and that killing the original contract made France feel “stabbed in the back.” Drian said the move looked more like something that “Donald Trump would do.”
On Friday, France recalled its ambassadors to Australia and the U.S. in protest. Australia’s Foreign Minister issued a statement that said she understands “France’s deep disappointment” but looked forward to “future engagements together.”
The French ambassador said that he found out about the submarine deal with America “like everybody” through reporting from the Australian press. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he told French President Emanuel Macron earlier this year about “genuine issues” about Australia’s need for nuclear capacity rather than conventional submarines.
Le Drian issued a further statement on Friday that said recalling the Australian and American ambassadors was done on the orders of French President Emmanuel Macron and is “justified by the exceptional seriousness” of the announcement of the new submarine agreement.