Australia claims ‘upfront’ with France over abandoning submarine deal

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton affirmed on Sunday that his country was "upfront, open and honest" with Paris about its concerns over the French submarine deal that Canberra abandoned after announcing a security partnership with the US and UK.
Dutton said in a statement to Sky News television that Australia raised concerns with France about the deal, estimated at $66 billion in 2016, saying, "it's not going to be a cheap project.

"Suggestions that the concerns hadn't been flagged by the Australian government, just defy, frankly, what's on the public record and certainly what they've said publicly over a long period of time," he added.

In another statement, Australian Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said that Canberra had informed Paris of its concerns about canceling the deal, noting that cancelation negotiations were confidential.

"We don't underestimate the importance now of... ensuring that we re-establish those strong ties with the French government and counterparts long into the future," he added. "Because their ongoing engagement in this region is important."

Australia has abandoned its 2016 French submarine deal with France's Naval Group and on Thursday announced a plan to build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines using US and UK technology in a partnership.

This move angered France, an ally of the US and UK in the North Atlantic Treaty, which prompted it to recall its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, as it also angered China.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday rejected France's accusations Canberra lied about plans to cancel a contract to buy French submarines, saying he had raised concerns over the deal "some months ago".Australia's decision to tear up a deal for the French submarines in favor of American nuclear-powered vessels sparked outrage in Paris.

Canberra has stood firm as France aired accusations of betrayal, with Morrison insisting he and his ministers previously communicated their issues about the French vessels.

"I think they would have had every reason to know that we had deep and grave concerns that the capability being delivered by the Attack Class submarine was not going to meet our strategic interests and we made very clear that we would be making a decision based on our strategic national interest," he told reporters in Sydney.

Morrison's comments came after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian used distinctly undiplomatic language towards Australia, the United States and Britain, which is also part of a new three-way security pact announced Wednesday that led to the rupture.