Moon Desk: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Friday that his country has not changed its position and will build a fleet of submarines under the AUKUS deal, despite criticism from French President Emmanuel Macron.
Speaking to reporters in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, the Australian premier said Macron is entitled to put forward his views, which he does in a very forthright way.
“We are proceeding with the AUKUS arrangements, there’s nothing ambiguous about it. That is our position,” Albanese said, according to a transcript published on his official website.
“He’s entitled to make whatever comments he wants as the Leader of France. We have a very cooperative relationship,” he added.
AUKUS is a trilateral security treaty for the Indo-Pacific region launched on Sept. 15, 2021, by Australia, the US, and UK.
Diplomatic relations between France and Australia soured last September when Australia signed the AUKUS deal with the US and UK to get nuclear-powered submarines.
Australia also canceled its Future Submarine Program (FSP) with France’s Naval Group to buy 12 submarines worth €56 billion ($57.2 billion).
The decision irked Macron and his government, who expressed their dismay over the deal.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron accused former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of provoking a “nuclear confrontation” with China and said he had helped Australia achieve “freedom and sovereignty” through the submarine deal, ABC News reported.
“We were helping and accompanying Australia in building a submarine fleet in-house, an industrial cooperation,” Macron said, quoted by the broadcaster.
Albanese responded to a question, “Is this your first disagreement with Macron?” He replied: “No one has suggested that. I was with President Macron last night. We had a very friendly exchange as we always do.”
The two leaders are in Bangkok for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which began on Friday.
Australia opposed to Taiwan joining CPTPP
Albanese said Australia would not support Taiwan’s membership in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) because it is not a recognized state.
“The CPTPP is a relationship between nation states that are recognized. Taiwan is represented here because it is represented here as an economy,” Albanese said, responding to a question that Canberra is now less likely to support Taiwan’s entry into the CPTPP after his recent meeting with President Xi Jinping.
“There is bipartisan support for the One China Policy. We support the status quo on Taiwan. And on the Taiwan Strait, we don’t want to see any unilateral action which alters that status quo,” he added.
His remarks came after his recent meeting with President Xi in Bali, Indonesia.
Beijing-Canberra relations soared after Australia joined its Western allies in calling for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, which first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in 2019.
Later, China imposed tariffs of over 200% on Australian wine imports following an anti-dumping investigation.