UPDATE 1-Australia made “huge mistake” by canceling submarine deal, says French envoy

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(Adds comments from Ambassador, Malaysia, background)

By Lidia Kelly and Stefica Nicol Bikes

MELBOURNE, Sept. 18 (Reuters) – Australia made a “huge” diplomatic error by abandoning a multibillion-dollar order for French submarines in favor of an alternative deal with the United States and Britain , the emissary of France in Canberra said on Saturday.

Australia on Thursday announced it would cancel the 2016 deal with the French naval group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and UK technology after entering into a partnership. trilateral safety device nL1N2QH2X7.

Australia’s move also angered China, the main rising power in the Indo-Pacific region, and Malaysia expressed concern on Saturday that Canberra’s decision to build atomic-powered submarines could start a regional nuclear arms race.

“This will prompt other powers to act more aggressively in the region as well, especially in the South China Sea,” the Malaysian prime minister’s office said, without mentioning China.

Beijing’s foreign policy in the region has become increasingly assertive, particularly its maritime claims in the resource-rich South China Sea, some of which conflict with Malaysia’s own claims.

France, an ally of the United States and Great Britain in NATO, called the cancellation of the agreement – valued at $ 40 billion in 2016 and estimated at much more today – a blow to dagger in the back nL1N2QI002 and recalled its ambassadors nL1N2QJ2YY from Washington and Canberra. .

“It was a huge mistake, a very, very mismanagement of the partnership – because it was not a contract, it was a partnership that was supposed to be based on trust, mutual understanding and sincerity,” said declared Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault. told reporters in Canberra before returning to Paris.

“DEEP DECEPTION”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said France was a “vital ally” and the United States would work in the coming days to resolve the differences.

Thebault said he was very sad to have to leave Australia, but added that he “requires a reassessment” of bilateral relations.

In separate comments to SBS Radio, Thebault said of the abandoned deal: “It wasn’t about selling salads or potatoes, it was a relationship of trust at the highest level covering questions of the highest level of secrecy and sensitivity. “

Australia said it regretted the French ambassador’s recall, appreciated the relationship with France and would continue to engage with Paris on other issues.

“Australia understands France’s deep disappointment at our decision, which was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests,” a spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Saturday.

The row between Paris and Canberra marks the lowest point in their relationship since 1995, when Australia protested France’s decision to resume nuclear testing in the South Pacific and recalled its ambassador for consultations. (Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Gareth Jones and David Clarke)


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