Bangkok: French President Emmanuel Macron has reignited his feud with Scott Morrison, accusing the former prime minister of entering a “nuclear confrontation” with China by seeking to acquire nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact.
Macron famously accused Morrison of lying to him by not informing him until the last minute that he was planning to cancel a $90 billion contract with French company Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines for Australia.
Although Macron has developed a strong working relationship with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, the scrapping of the submarines deal still rankles him over a year later.
Macron said the prospect of France supplying Australia with some submarines was still “on the table”, even as the government pushes ahead with AUKUS.
A day after holding a bilateral meeting with Albanese on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Macron told reporters in Bangkok that France had been helping Australia develop a sovereign submarine-building capacity.
“So it was both industrial cooperation and giving sovereignty to Australia because they will maintain the submarines themselves, and it is not confrontational to China because they are not nuclear-powered submarines,” he said.
“But the choice made by [former] prime minister 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 and maintaining in-house.”
Although his comments were aimed at Morrison, Macron’s critique of Australia’s new submarine policy as a form of “nuclear confrontation” with China would also apply to the Albanese government, given it is sticking with the previous AUKUS plan.