The British defense secretary on Monday said the UK did not intend to upset France with the newly formed partnership with the US and Australia.
Responding to questions about the defense partnership, dubbed AUKUS, at the House of Commons, Ben Wallace said: “The US and France are our closest allies.”
“Britain and France on many issues are joined at the hip: complex weapons, counter-terrorism, Africa … and indeed, more recently, obviously in places like Iraq and Syria,” Wallace told the lawmakers.
“There is absolutely no intent here by the UK government to slight, upset or drive a wedge between us and France,” he said.
He added: “There was no sneakiness behind the back. It was fundamentally Australia’s right to choose a different capability and it did.”
France expressed its disappointment after a multibillion-dollar submarine procurement contract was canceled by Australia to sign with the AUKUS pact with the UK and US to build nuclear-powered submarines.
It recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra for consultations.
Meanwhile, France's Defense Minister Florence Parly has also canceled talks that were due this week in London with Wallace after the cancellation of the submarine deal, which was worth $66 billion.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters in New York that the UK and France had a “very important and indestructible relationship."
"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," he said.
He added: "This is just a way of the UK, the US and Australia sharing certain technologies because that is the sensible thing to do in the world in which we find ourselves.
"But that does not in any way mean that we wish to be adversarial to anybody else, or exclusive, or crowding anybody else out."/aa