Sep 16, 2021 - World

U.S. raises ire of China and France with new global pact

 President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House September 15, 2021 in Washington, DC.

President Biden at the White House during a virtual event Wednesday with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) and United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

China's D.C. embassy said Thursday in response to a new security pact between the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia that the countries should "shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice," per the Australian Associated Press.

Why it matters: The AUKUS partnership is a warning to China's government as the Biden administration moves to counter Beijing in the Indo-Pacific. It's also raised the ire of the French government, after the countries revealed the U.S. and U.K. would help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

  • French officials condemned the deal because it means that the $90 billion submarine contract with Australia's government that France won in 2016 has been abruptly scrapped.
  • Australia has spent AU$2.4 billion ($1.8 billion) on the project.

What they're saying: Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., likened the pact to cold war policies and said countries "should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties," per AAP.

  • In France, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly issued a joint statement on Wednesday, calling the decision to end the French deal "regrettable."
"The American choice to push aside a European ally and partner like France from a structural partnership with Australia at a time we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region ... shows a lack of coherence that France can only acknowledge and regret."
— Le Drian and Parly

The big picture: Chinese military power in East Asia has been approaching parity with the U.S. in recent years, and Beijing has been constructing or leasing military bases for its own use around the Indo-Pacific, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian notes.

  • Chinese military activities in the South China Sea in particular are viewed by the U.S. as a top security threat.

Of note: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a news conference on Thursday welcomed the focus on the region, but said Australia's new submarines wouldn't be permitted in its territorial waters due to the country's long standing nuclear free policy.

The other side: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his country's switch, telling reporters that the $2.4 billion already invested "has further built our capability and that is consistent with the decision that was taken back in 2016 for all the right reasons to protect Australia’s national security interests and has served that purpose."

  • Morrison said there's "an open invitation" for talks with President Xi Jinping.
  • The Biden administration did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper: Biden's muddled China policy

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