Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday departed for Washington to meet with leaders of the Quad grouping amid criticism over his government’s decision to abandon a $40 billion submarine deal with France.
Australia last week said it would scrap a deal with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and would instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology after striking a trilateral security partnership.
France has said the relationship with Australia and the United States is in “crisis” and has recalled its ambassadors from both countries.
Read more: In escalation over submarine deal, France recalls envoys from US and Australia
While Australia has moved to dampen tensions, expressing its regret over the incident, Morrison’s meeting with fellow Quad leaders British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden threatened to inflame French irritation.
“The French are very unimpressed and the sight of Morrison, Biden, and Johnson together will do little to repair ties,” said Haydon Manning, a political science professor at Flinders University in South Australia.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will also attend the leaders’ meeting of the Quad group later this week.
The Quad will discuss COVID-19, climate change, and regional security, two sources familiar with the schedule told Reuters.
The problem with the argument that this nuke deal compromises Australia’s “independence” or sovereignty is that the deal was Australia’s initiative – a sovereign and independent decision to prosecute Australia’s imperialist interests
— Padraic Gibson (@paddygibson) September 16, 2021
“This is all about ensuring that Australia’s sovereign interests will be put first to ensure that Australians here can live peacefully with the many others in our region,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney as he boarded the plane to Washington.
New agreements furthering cooperation between the four countries are expected, but Australia will not announce strengthened climate targets sought by the United States, one senior government source said.
Read more: Quad bounces back with an in-person summit at Washington
Morrison has rejected setting a target of net zero emissions by 2050 and is under pressure to do more ahead of a United Nations climate summit in Glasgow from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12.
Reuters with additional input by GVS News Desk