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US, Britain deal to supply Australia with nuke-powered subs creates more diplomatic issues for Biden

The international deal ends a reported multibillion-dollar contract in France, infuriating leaders in the country.

Updated: September 16, 2021 - 12:09pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The international deal announced Wednesday for the United States and Britain to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia to patrol the Pacific is creating diplomatic challenges for President Biden.

Amid the deal, Australia told France it would end its contract with a state majority-owned company to build 12 conventional submarines, resulting in a sharp response from French leaders who are demanding an explanation from all stakeholders.

"It was really a stab in the back. We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed," said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, according to the Associated Press

The contract was reportedly worth tens of billions of dollars.

Western allies are trying to increase their presence in the Pacific amid China's increasing effort to control the region, including its territorial claim to the South China Sea.

China said the alliance would severely damage regional peace and stability and jeopardize efforts to halt nuclear weapon proliferation.

The submarines for Australia will not have a nuclear weapon on board but reportedly will have ballistic missiles. 

China said the U.S. and Britain exporting the nuclear technology is "highly irresponsible" and that Australia was to blame for a breakdown in bilateral relations, the wire service also reports. 

"The most urgent task is for Australia to correctly recognize the reasons for the setbacks in the relations between the two countries, and think carefully whether to treat China as a partner or a threat," said Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Beijing has also been unhappy with the Biden administration calling it out about human rights abuses, its crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong and cybersecurity breaches. 

Biden spoke last week with China’s President Xi Jinping. After the call, the official Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi expressed concerns that U.S. government policy toward China has caused "serious difficulties" in relations, the Associated Press also reports. 

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