News World Scott Morrison and Joe Biden meet in person amid growing disquiet over nuclear submarine deal
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Scott Morrison and Joe Biden meet in person amid growing disquiet over nuclear submarine deal

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Scott Morrison and Joe Biden have faced the world together in New York as the fallout from the controversial nuclear submarine deal continues with Germany joining the chorus of discontent.

Mr Morrison and the US president met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly just days after the AUKUS pact was revealed.

Mr Morrison did not address the submarines issue directly but thanked Mr Biden for his leadership in the Pacific and praised the president for understanding the complexities of the situation in the region.

“There’s no doubt you get it,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison and Mr Biden met on the sidelines of the 76th UN General Assembly in New York.

Mr Biden said their conversation would continue on Friday (local time) in a meeting with Japan and India, the other two members of a separate partnership known as the Quad.

“The United States has no closer or more reliable ally than Australia,” Mr Biden said, adding that the goal of the two countries is a “free and open” Pacific region.

The AUKUS partnership will enable Australia to acquire at least eight US nuclear submarines. But it has also cancelled previous planned submarine acquisitions from France, leading to a diplomatic blow-up.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas criticised the new security alliance between the US, Britain and Australia, describing the move as “irritating”.

“It’s sobering, not just for France,” Mr Maas said.

“I can well understand the anger of our French friends,” Mr Maas said, adding that EU allies would have to think about how to achieve more strategic sovereignty.

“Ultimately, it will be up to us in Europe whether we can manage that or not.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission’s industry commissioner Thierry Breton said the EU’s anger with the US was not only about the submarine deal with Australia.

Mr Breton said strains in trans-Atlantic ties had been building for years and could not be reduced to just frustration over Australia scrapping a $90 billion submarine deal with France.

He said many politicians and citizens across Europe shared a “growing feeling … that something is broken in our trans-Atlantic relations” after a series of surprises from US President Joe Biden’s administration in recent months.

“This feeling is unfortunately increasing,” he said in Washington DC.

“It’s not right to think it is just because of what happened last week. It’s much broader than that.”

Mr Breton said European Union leaders would decide, possibly this week, whether to proceed with the inaugural meeting of a new US-EU Trade and Technology Council in Pittsburgh on September 29, a gathering that was trumpeted as a major advance in the trans-Atlantic alliance.

As the growing disquiet over the nuclear submarine deal simmered, Mr Biden gave his first speech to the United Nations calling on countries to co-operate like never before in a “new era of relentless diplomacy”.

Mr Biden said the world was facing a “decisive decade” in which world leaders must work together to combat a raging coronavirus pandemic, global climate change and cyber threats.

He mapped out a new era of vigorous competition without a new Cold War despite China’s ascendance during his first United Nations address, promising military restraint and a robust fight against climate change.

Mr Biden did not say the words “China” or “Beijing” but sprinkled implicit references to the increasingly powerful authoritarian competitor throughout his speech as the two countries butt heads in the Asia-Pacific and on trade and human rights issues.

He said the US would compete vigorously, both economically and to push democratic systems and rule of law.

“We’ll stand up for our allies and our friends and oppose attempts by stronger countries to dominate weaker ones, whether through changes to territory by force, economic coercion, technical exploitation or disinformation. But we’re not seeking – I’ll say it again – we are not seeking a new Cold War or a world divided into rigid blocs,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden came to the UN facing criticism at home and abroad for a chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan that left some US citizens and Afghan allies still in that country and struggling to get out.

“We’ve ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan and as we close this era of relentless war, we’re opening a new era of relentless diplomacy,” Mr Biden said.

-with AAP