Boris Johnson has called China “ridiculous” for its furious response to the new military alliance between the US, Britain and Australia.
Beijing claims the move has “intensified” the arms race and state media have warned it “may make Australia a target for nuclear attack if war breaks out.”
As part of the deal, Britain and the US have agreed to supply Australia with nuclear submarine technology, seen largely as an effort to counter China’s expansion in the South China Sea, where it lays claim to several disputed islands.
But Johnson told the Today show about China’s objections: “I think that’s ridiculous. And there is no need for anyone to take this as hostile to them. This is about technology transfer.’
It comes as Germany today backed France in a convergent diplomatic row over Australia’s decision to tear up its $65 billion contract with Paris for diesel-electric submarines in favor of the nuclear submarines from the Aukus deal.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who has developed close ties with the Biden administration, told reporters at the UN: “I can understand the anger of our French friends.”
“What was decided and the way it was decided was irritating and disappointing, and not just for France,” he added.
But Johnson told the Today show about China’s objections: “I think that’s ridiculous. And there is no need for anyone to take this as hostile to them. This is about technology transfer’
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who has developed close ties with the Biden administration, told reporters at the UN: “I can understand the anger of our French friends” (Photo: in Berlin on September 15)
Astute class submarine HMS Ambush is pictured during sea trials near Scotland. Britain and the United States have agreed to provide the Australians with nuclear submarine technology as part of the new Aukus Pact
A glowing Emmanuel Macron on Friday recalled his ambassadors to the United States and Australia, in a rare move for such close allies.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has also not scheduled the usual one-on-one meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in New York.
Before leaving Canberra, Ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault said France had been “stabbed in the back” and that the Australian decision had taken Paris by surprise.
The French said Monday they expect compensation for the shattered submarine deal, which is valued at a staggering $290 million.
China has reacted furiously to the Aukus deal, claiming it is a blow to nuclear non-proliferation (Photo: President Xi Jinping visits a chemical company in Yulin City on Sept. 13)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison claims he raised “issues” about the contract “many months ago.”
Johnson, meanwhile, went on the charm offensive, insisting Britain and France had an “indestructible” relationship.
“The UK and France have, I believe, a very, very important and indestructible relationship,” he told reporters in New York.
“And of course we’re going to talk to all our friends about how we can make the Aukus Pact work so that it doesn’t rule out, it doesn’t divide, and it really doesn’t have to be that way.”
Ongoing disputes between the French and the Chinese come as world leaders gather in the Big Apple for a United Nations conference focusing on the fight against climate change and Covid-19.
The US tried to dissuade leaders from coming to New York to prevent the General Assembly from becoming a “super-dissemination event,” although Joe Biden will address the meeting in person, his first UN visit since taking office.
A so-called UN honor system means that everyone who enters the auditorium effectively declares that they have been vaccinated, but that they do not have to show proof.
This system will be broken when the first country speaks – Brazil. Jair Bolsonaro is a vaccine skeptic, who last week stated that he does not need the injection because he is already immune after being infected with COVID-19.
Indeed, when British Prime Minister Johnson met Bolsonaro on Monday, he urged the Brazilian to get the Oxford University-developed AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I’ve had two,” Johnson declared proudly, slapping his arm.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson watches as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US President Joe Biden bump their elbows at the G7 conference in Cornwall in June
Bolsonaro, also known as the Trump of the Tropics, wagged his finger at the Englishman and said, “Not yet.”
Should he change his mind, New York City has set up a van outside the UN for a week to deliver free tests and free shots of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Reuters that discussions about the number of traveling diplomats who may have been vaccinated illustrate “how dramatic the inequality is today with regard to vaccination.”
He is pushing for a global plan to vaccinate 70 percent of the world by the first half of next year.
Of the 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered around the world, only 2 percent have been in Africa.
Biden will host a virtual meeting from Washington on Wednesday with leaders and chief executives that aims to boost the worldwide distribution of vaccines.