French President Lashes Out at Former Australian PM for 'Sparking Nuclear Confrontation' with China

French President Emmanuel Macron has accused former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of provoking a nuclear confrontation with China by scrapping the $90 billion French submarine contract for nuclear subs.

Morrison's green light for nuclear submarines, developed by the UK or US as part of the AUKUS defence pact, has left Macron hot headed. As such, he lashed out at Morrison after meeting Australia's new PM Anthony Albanese at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

Now in Thailand where he is for the APEC Summit, Macron said France has been helping Australia achieve "freedom and sovereignty" through the submarine deal. "We were helping and accompanying Australia in building a submarine fleet in-house, an industrial cooperation. But the choice made by former PM Morrison was the opposite, re-entering into nuclear confrontation, making himself completely dependent by deciding to equip themselves with a submarine fleet that the Australians are incapable of producing or maintaining in-house."


Macron said the French-made diesel submarines were not confrontational to China because they are not nuclear-powered. Australia is weighing up whether it will go with the British or the American model. Through the AUKUS deal, Australia will get access to American and British nuclear technology. The eight submarines are nuclear powered but will not carry nuclear warheads – expected to be operational by the mid-2030s. It will give Australia the ability to operate more stealthily and armed with sophisticated cruise missile capabilities.

Australia-France Relations Beyond Submarines

Though scrapping of the submarine deal has left a sour taste in Macron's mouth, Australia is doing all it can make amends. Anthony Albanese, since coming to power in May, has tried to repair ties with Elysee Palace. He even met Macron in Paris and apologized. However, Australia's new PM backs the AUKUS deal and maintained that the way in which the French government was informed of the decision to scrap the submarine contract was negligent.

Moreover, Albanese introduced a compensation deal with the French submarine maker Naval Group to end the contract dispute. The firm agreed to a fair and an equitable settlement of $584 million for Australia. Albanese had said the French submarine contract would have cost Australian taxpayers $2.4 billion.

Unhappy China

Australia opting for nuclear-powered submarines left China red in the face. China warned the deal would serve to inflame tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.


Wang Xining, China's deputy ambassador to Australia, said Australia is a "naughty guy". He believes Australia would be seen as a "sabre wielder", rather than a "peace defender" in the Pacific. Zhao Lijian, China's foreign affairs spokesperson, had earlier said the nuclear cooperation between the United States, Australia and the UK has seriously undermined regional peace and stability, intensified the arms race and undermined international non-proliferation efforts. He added that the three countries should discard the Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow geopolitical perspective.