News National Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron agree to rebuild trust after furore over nuclear submarine deal
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Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron agree to rebuild trust after furore over nuclear submarine deal

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Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron appear to have mended bridges after the French complained of being stabbed in the back over the nuclear submarine deal, but Australia is still in the doghouse.

Mr Macron will send his ambassador back to the US next week after Mr Biden agreed that consulting France before announcing a security pact with Australia could have prevented a diplomatic row, the two sides say.

But no decision has been made about the French ambassador to Australia, the Elysee said, adding that no phone call with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was scheduled.

Addressing media on Thursday morning in the USA, Mr Morrison said Australia had tried to arrange a phone conversation with France without success so far, “but we’ll be patient”.

Mr Morrison said he understood why the French were disappointed and this had been weighed up during the decision-making process over the submarine deal.

Mr Morrison said he would always act in Australia’s national interest first, but he looked forward to having a discussion with France.

“Australia decided not to proceed with a very significant defence contract and understandably, we know, that France is disappointed about that, and I think those issues will take further time to work through than the ones between the United States and France,” said Mr Morrison.

Last week, France recalled its ambassadors from the US and Australia and accused Mr Biden of stabbing it in the back after Australia ditched a multi-billion dollar defence contract for the purchase of French submarines and opted for US submarines instead.

In a phone call on Wednesday, Mr Macron and Mr Biden agreed to launch in-depth consultations to rebuild trust, Macron’s office and the White House said in a joint statement.

Mr Macron and Mr Biden will meet in Europe at the end of October.

“The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European partners,” the statement said.

“President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard.”

The US also committed to boosting support for counter-terrorism missions led by European countries in Africa’s Sahel region, Macron’s office said.

The United States “recognises the importance of a stronger and more capable European defence, that contributes positively to trans-Atlantic and global security and is complementary to NATO,” the statement said.

UK says ‘get over it’

Meanwhile British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Mr Macron to “donnez moi un break” and get over his anger about the new AUKUS pact.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Mr Johnson said: “I just think it’s time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez moi un break.

“Because this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security. It’s three very like-minded allies standing shoulder to shoulder creating a new partnership for the sharing of technology.

“It’s not exclusive. It’s not trying to shoulder anybody out. It’s not adversarial towards China, for instance.”

Malaysia fears nuclear arms race

The AUKUS alliance has also angered China and ruffled feathers with some of the Australian’s Asia neighbours.

Malaysia has indicated it plans to seek China’s position on the new defence partnership, days after sounding the alarm that the pact could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region.

Indonesia and Malaysia warned that it would lead to an arms race in the region amid a burgeoning superpower rivalry in Southeast Asia, while the Philippines has backed the pact as a means of maintaining the region’s balance of power.

Malaysia’s defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein has proposed an immediate working trip to China to discuss AUKUS.

“We need to get the views from the leadership of China, especially China’s defence, on AUKUS that was announced by the three countries and what are their actions following the announcement,” Hishammuddin said in parliament on Wednesday.

Hishammuddin said he had urged his Australian counterpart Peter Dutton to approach Brunei, chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam — China’s neighbours — to address concerns about the region’s security.

“Our strength is not when we are alone, our strength is when these 10 ASEAN member countries are united to see the position and security of the region be defended,” he said.

-with AAP