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 has warned that it ‘will potentially make Australia a target of a nuclear strike if war breaks out.’
As part of the deal, Britain and the US have agreed to provide Australia with nuclear submarine technology, largely-viewed as an effort to counter Chinese expansion in the South China Sea where it lays claim to several disputed islands.
But Johnson told the Today show of China’s objections: ‘I think that’s ridiculous. And there’s no need whatsoever for anybody to construe this as adversarial towards them. This is about technology transfer.’
It comes as Germany today backed France in a converging diplomatic row over the Australian 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 our French friends’ anger.’
‘What was decided, and the manner in which it was decided, was irritating and disappointing, and not only for France,’ he added.
But Johnson told the Today show of China’s objections: ‘I think that’s ridiculous. And there’s no need whatsoever for anybody to construe this as adversarial towards 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 our French friends’ anger’ (pictured: 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
An incandescent 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 while in New York.
Before leaving Canberra, ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault said that France had been ‘stabbed in the back’ and that the Australian decision had caught Paris totally by surprise.
The French said on Monday they would be expecting compensation for the shredded submarine deal, estimated to be as much as $290 million.
China has reacted furiously to the Aukus deal, claiming it is a blow to nuclear non-proliferation (pictured: President Xi Jinping visits a chemical company in Yulin City on Sept. 13)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison claims that he had raised ‘issues’ about the contract ‘many months ago.’
Johnson meanwhile went on the charm offensive as he insisted that Britain and France enjoyed 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’ll be talking to all our friends about how to make the Aukus pact work so that it’s not exclusionary, it’s not divisive and it really doesn’t have to be that way.’
The running disputes of the French and the Chinese comes as world leaders are converging on the Big Apple for a United Nations conference, with a focus on the fight against climate change and Covid-19.
The US tried to dissuade leaders from coming to New York in a bid to stop the General Assembly from becoming a ‘super-spreader event,’ although Joe Biden will address the assembly in person, his first UN visit since taking office.
A so-called UN honor system means that anyone entering the assembly hall effectively declares they are vaccinated, but 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 declared that he does not need the shot because he is already immune after being infected with COVID-19.
Indeed, when British PM Johnson met Bolsonaro on Monday he urged the Brazilian to get the Oxford University-developed AstraZeneca vaccine.
‘I’ve had two,’ Johnson proudly declared as he smacked his arm.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and U.S. President Joe Biden bump elbows during the G7 conference in Cornwall in June
Bolsonaro, dubbed the Trump of the Tropics, wagged his finger at the Englishman, telling him: ‘Not yet.’
Should he change his mind, New York City has set up a van outside the UN for the week to supply free testing and free shots of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Reuters that the discussions around how many traveling diplomats might have been immunized illustrated ‘how dramatic the inequality is today in relation to vaccination.’
He is pushing for a global plan to vaccinate 70 per cent of the world by the first half of next year.
Out of 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered around the world, only 2 per cent have been in Africa.
Biden will host a virtual meeting from Washington with leaders and chief executives on Wednesday that aims to boost the distribution of vaccines globally.