Boris Johnson inspects nuclear submarine HMS Victorious
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France said it had been "stabbed in the back" by Australia's decision to axe a multi-billion dollar deal between the two countries and join forces with Britain and the US. China denounced the new defence partnership as dangerous Cold War thinking. Beijing state-media also warned that Australian soldiers would be the "first to die" in any Chinese counterattack. The AUKUS deal is set to be a significant boost to Britain's defence industry which has expertise in submarine technologies.
But French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: "This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do. It's a break in trust and I am extremely angry."
France's ex-ambassador to the US Gerard Araud went further, saying: "The world is a jungle. France has just been reminded of this bitter truth by the way the US and the UK have stabbed her in the back in Australia."
Boris Johnson told the Commons the pact would "preserve security and stability around the world" and generate "hundreds of high-skilled jobs". He also said the relationship with France was "rock solid".
Downing Street said Mr Johnson had no plans to speak with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace also sought to defuse tensions with France, denying it was a "betrayal".
He insisted: "We didn't go fishing for these opportunities.
Nuclear subs deal will create jobs in Britain (Image: Getty)
"Fundamentally, the Australians made a decision that they wanted a different capability."
Mr Wallace added: "We have no intention of doing anything to antagonise the French – they are some of our closest military allies."
He also rejected China's accusations of a Cold War mentality after the defence partnership was struck.
Speaking on Times Radio, he said: "To call it a Cold War is out of date."
The AUKUS agreement, which was discussed on the fringes of the G7 meeting in Cornwall in June, has raised eyebrows over why Canada and New Zealand were not included.
Together with the other three nations they form the Five Eyes intelligence sharing partnership.
Australia will become only the seventh nation to operate nuclear-powered submarines, after the US, UK, France, China, India and Russia.
Ben Wallace says the UK will not antagonise the French (Image: Getty)
Australia has reaffirmed it has no intention of obtaining nuclear weapons. However, New Zealand, led by Left-wing Jacinda Ardern, has now vowed to ban the new Australian
The partnership was announced in a joint virtual press conference between US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on Wednesday.
And while China was not mentioned directly, the three leaders referred repeatedly to regional security concerns which they said had "grown significantly".
AUKUS will also involve the sharing of cyber capabilities and other undersea technologies.
Taiwan and Japan, both neighbours of China, welcomed the statement.
The countries are both threatened by Beijing and North Korea and said the new naval alliance would help keep the region "free and open" and increase "peace and security". In an embarrassing moment, US President Joe Biden appeared to forget the name of Mr Morrison.
During a press conference, he said: "Thank you Boris [Johnson] and I want to thank uh, that fella Down Under," he said, turning to a TV screen showing Mr Morrison.
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