Blinken calls France ‘vital partner’ after Australia rift

WASHINGTON (AFP): US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday called France a “vital partner” in Asia after Paris was infuriated by a US-UK pact with Australia that scuppered a major French submarine deal.

“I want to emphasize that there is no regional divide separating the interests of our Atlantic and our Pacific partners,” Blinken told reporters.

“We want to find every opportunity to deepen our transatlantic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and around the world,” Blinken said.

“France, in particular, is a vital partner on this.”

The United States, Britain and Australia announced a new alliance under which Canberra will be the second country to obtain nuclear submarines with US technology.

Australia said it was scrapping a multibillion-dollar deal for conventional submarines from France after concerns over cost overruns.

Blinken said the United States stood solidly behind Australia, which has faced growing pressure from China.

“Beijing has seen over the past months that Australia will not back down and the threats of economic retaliation and pressure simply will not work,” Blinken said.

“The United States will not leave Australia alone on the field or, better yet, on the pitch,” he said, using sporting metaphors.