Australia is holding out in the face of sustained European anger over a torn $ 90 billion French submarine contract that sparked a major diplomatic split.
Scott Morrison insists the nation needs nuclear powered boats rather than conventional submarines. The French company Naval Group was enlisted to supply.
The French government claims to have been taken aback by the announcement of the AUKUS pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
But the prime minister said Australia had previously raised concerns about the suitability of French submarines for a strategic situation in the Indo-Pacific.
“We have made it clear in recent months that the ability of a conventional submarine to operate in this environment we are now facing poses serious risks,” he told reporters in New York on Wednesday.
“The environment we seek to exploit has changed. I don’t think there is any dispute about that.”
Mr Morrison said Australia strongly believes that conventional boats will not be suitable in the future.
“We have made the decision that we are entitled to take. To protect Australia’s interests and advance our national security,” he said.
The Prime Minister told European Council President Charles Michel that Australia wanted to work with the Indo-Pacific bloc but received an icy response.
“Thank you for your message but as you know for us transparency and loyalty are fundamental principles,” said Michel.
After the meeting with European officials, Morrison said it was understood that a free trade deal being negotiated was separate from the submarine deal.
“It is not easy to make a trade deal with Europe,” the prime minister told reporters.
“But I was very satisfied with the discussions we had on this topic today, not only obviously with the European Commission and the Council, but also with individual Member States.”
Mr Biden praised the strong alliance with Australia during his first one-on-one meeting with the Prime Minister on Wednesday.
“The United States has no closer or more reliable ally than Australia,” said the president.
“Our nations have stood together for a long, long time. We can count on each other and that is really a reassuring thing.”
The submarine deal could also include Australia hosting nuclear-powered submarines from the UK before construction begins.
Mr Morrison confirmed the possibility but said there were no commitments yet.
“Being able to bring this capacity to our region and to work with that, it provides training opportunities for Australians as well as we are looking to build our capacity,” he said.
Foreign Minister Marine Payne visited the United States with Defense Minister Peter Dutton.
Senator Payne described the AUKUS deal with the United States and the United Kingdom as a sharing of technology rather than a military alliance or a security pact.
Plans to acquire nuclear-powered submarine technology under the AUKUS deal aim to counter China’s regional influence.
“The President has a deep understanding of the Indo-Pacific. A very deep understanding. He has been in this space for a very long time and he knows it intimately,” said Mr. Morrison.
Associated Australian Press