In response to a newly penned nuclear submarine deal between the United States and Australia, France announced on Friday it would recall its ambassadors to both countries, citing "unacceptable behavior" on the part of the allied nations.
"This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on 15th September by Australia and the United States," France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian wrote in a Friday statement.
Le Drian was referring to a joint announcement made this week by the U.S., U.K. and Australian government leaders, unveiling a new trilateral security program — called AUKUS — that effectively cancels a previous $40 billion submarine deal made between France and Australia.
"The cancellation of the Attack class submarine program binding Australia and France since 2016, and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States meant to launch studies on a possible future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines, constitute unacceptable behavior between allies and partners, whose consequences directly affect the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe," Le Drian said.
I am being recalled to Paris for consultations. This follows announcements directly affecting the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe. https://t.co/ue2V1NUTpN— Philippe Etienne (@Ph_Etienne) September 17, 2021
The new trilateral program was announced on Wednesday in response to China's military escalations in the South China Sea. The region represents a major global shipping lane with oil and natural gas resources.
Responding to France's announcement, the White House said it had been in contact with French officials regarding the recall, but reaffirmed the two countries' allegiances to one another in spite of the mounting submarine feud.
"We have been in close touch with our French partners on their decision to recall Ambassador Etienne to Paris," Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement. "We understand their position and will continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our differences, as we have done at other points over the course of our long alliance. France is our oldest ally and one of our strongest partners, and we share a long history of shared democratic values and a commitment to working together to address global challenges."
A previous version of this story incorrectly said the AUKUS announcement was made by the heads of state of the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. Queen Elizabeth is the head of state for the U.K. and Australia but was not involved in the announcement. The treaty was put forward by the heads of government — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.