US tries to appease French anger over Australian naval pact

U.S. Foreign Policy Updates

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said France remains a “vital partner” in the Indo-Pacific region in an attempt to calm the fury in Paris against the new naval security pact with Australia and the United Kingdom.

The deal announced this week by Joe Biden, US President Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, and Scott Morrison, Australian Prime Minister, is seen as a landmark move to strengthen their defense cooperation in the face of a rising China .

But the deal faced a scathing backlash from France, including its own lucrative submarine contract and the partnership with Australia was abandoned as a result of the new trilateral initiative.

Senior French officials blasted the United States for a “lack of consistency” in excluding France from the pact, bringing diplomatic relations between Washington and Paris to their lowest point during Biden’s presidency. US officials only discussed the pact with their French counterparts this week, the day it was announced.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Blinken tried to allay French concerns that the new security deal with Australia and the UK amounted to a betrayal or rejection of France and its role as power of the Pacific.

“We cooperate incredibly closely with France on many common priorities in the Indo-Pacific but also beyond in the world. We will continue to do so. We value this relationship, this partnership, ”said Blinken.

He later added that there was “no regional division separating the interests of our Atlantic and Pacific partners”, stressing the United States’ desire for “close cooperation with NATO, with the EU and others in this endeavor ”.

“France, in particular, has been an essential partner on this issue and on so many others, for generations,” added the top American diplomat.

Blinken was accompanied at the press conference by Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary of Defense, and their Australian counterparts. Austin said the deal would strengthen what he called “integrated deterrence” in the region, in the face of “the increasingly contested security environment in the Indo-Pacific.”

Austin highlighted “China’s destabilizing activities and Beijing’s efforts to coerce and intimidate other countries, contrary to established rules and norms,” ​​adding, “While we seek a constructive and results-oriented relationship with [China], we will remain lucid about Beijing’s efforts to undermine the established international order.

Earlier Thursday, Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, accused Australia, the UK and US with double standards and an “obsolete zero-sum cold war mentality”.

France’s indignation at the agreement highlights the difficulty for the United States of federating all its Western allies around a more assertive approach by China on the security front, even if other countries of the United States The EU are less invested and less sensitive to the new trilateral pact.

But France’s discontent was so palpable that it tempered celebrations for the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Caps, a turning point in the American Revolution, notably with the cancellation of a gala dinner at the French Embassy in Washington.

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