The AUKUS clash of interests

France has cancelled the ministerial summit with the United Kingdom

PHOTO/JUSTIN TALLIS via AP  -   El presidente francés Emmanuel Macron, a la derecha, y el primer ministro británico Boris Johnson, en una visita al 10 de Downing Street en Londres el jueves 18 de junio de 2020

The first consequences of the AUKUS pact have not been long in coming. France has cancelled a meeting that was due to take place later this week between Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly and her British counterpart, Ben Wallace, after Australia's signing of the AUKUS deal scuppered a sales agreement with France in which the country would supply Canberra with 12 propulsion submarines valued at 50 billion euros. The meeting was expected to be attended by senior military officials from both countries.

This decision comes after France recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations following the signing of the new defence contract, which would mean the cancellation of France's multi-billion euro defence contract. Moreover, this "stab in the back", as French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has described it, implies that this behaviour has affected "France's conception of its alliances", as well as "the importance of the Indo-Pacific region for Europe".

AFP/ ANGELOS TZORTZINIS - French President Emmanuel Macron at a press conference during the 8th MED7 Mediterranean Summit in Athens, 17 September 2021.

Alongside this, the French Secretary of State for European Affairs has thrown a dart at the UK, stating that 'our British friends explained to us that they were going to leave the EU to create a Global Britain. We can see that this is a return to the American shelter and a form of accepted vassalage", he criticised.

Australia's strategy in the pact

For its part, the United Kingdom has expressed its satisfaction with the new pact through the new British Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, who has declared that the defence pact reached with the United States demonstrates "the United Kingdom's commitment to stability in the Indo-Pacific". 

From Australia, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared his concern about the consequences of the AUKUS and lamented them, stating that in Paris "they should have known that we had deep and serious concerns" about the new agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom. The Australian finance minister also admitted that the negotiations with the US had been kept secret in view of the "enormous sensitivities" that could be involved for France. 

PHOTO/AFP - Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia

Even so, Australia has sought to disassociate itself from France's accusations of betrayal of Canberra, as Scott Morrison told France Presse that France would know that "we had deep and serious concerns that the capability being delivered by the Attack Class submarine was not going to meet our strategic interests". "We made it very clear that we would make a decision based on our strategic national interest. I do not regret the decision to put Australia's national interest first. I never will," he stressed to the same media outlet.

In response, France has stressed that in a joint statement issued on 30 August, the French and Australian defence and foreign ministers stressed "the importance" of the submarine deal between the two nations. However, Australia continues to point out that in June they publicly stated that Canberra was "considering its options". Similarly, last April they refused to sign the second part of the contract to execute the second part of the deal with France, demanding that a number of conditions be met by September. 

PHOTO//JENS SCHLUETER via REUTERS - Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Foreign Affairs Minister

Thus, over the next few days, Emmanuel Macron and Joe Biden have arranged a telephone call to discuss the submarine crisis, a conversation in which, according to French media, Macron will ask Biden for explanations about the causes of the agreement. 

Alongside this, the French ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault, said that France "felt cheated" by Australia. From Paris, in an interview with ABC television, Thebault said that through the press they discovered that "the most important person in this Australian government intentionally hid the suspension of the contract from us until the last minute. That's not an Australian attitude towards France. Maybe we are not friends".

First North Korean reactions

In the Indo-Pacific region, North Korea has condemned the AUKUS pact and stated that it will "take appropriate measures" if the country's security is affected. Pionyang has accused Washington of "upsetting the strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region" and called the new pact "extremely undesirable and dangerous", in a statement issued by the foreign ministry. 

AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS - This photo taken on 15 September 2021 and released by the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 16 September shows a mock test firing of a rail-launched missile regiment.

These declarations by the North Korean leader come in a tense context for the region, as North Korea has reportedly tested new "railway missile systems", designed to respond to any "eventual attack" that threatens the country.

The launch reportedly took place on the same day that South Korea reportedly tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile. This military exercise has made South Korea the first country without a nuclear arsenal to have weapons of this calibre. 

AFP PHOTO / KCTV - - This archive screenshot image taken from North Korean broadcaster KCTV on Aug. 1, 2019 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observing the launch of a ballistic missile

In the arms race between the two Koreas, the demonstration of their weapons arsenal has been occurring exponentially. However, North Korea's nuclear weapons demonstrations have provoked international condemnation and rejection by the United States, which declared that North Korea has systematically violated "UN Security Council resolutions", posing a threat to Pyongyang's neighbours.