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France looks to Asia after submarine deal with Australia goes sour

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France has pledged to boost ties with Asian countries by offering “concrete projects” after it was blindsided by the AUKUS defence pact, which saw Australia ditching a commitment to buy French submarines.

Speaking during a two-day visit to Indonesia, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the Indo-Pacific region would be at the heart of France’s priorities when it assumes the presidency of the European Union in January.

“France is now determined to continue to act to increase the commitment and engagement of Europeans in the Indo-Pacific through some very concrete cooperation projects with our partners in the region, of course with Indonesia.

“Such cooperation covers sectors including security, environment, transportation and higher education.

“At the heart of this commitment is a vision of the Indo-Pacific which is free and open based on the rule of law and the respect for the sovereignty of every state and multilateralism,” Mr Le Drian told a news conference after talks with his Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi.

France lost a $66 billion contract to sell submarines to Australia thanks to the AUKUS pact, which allows Canberra to build nuclear-powered submarines using technology provided by the United States.

Paris has since been trying to court Indo-Pacific powers, including India and Indonesia.

AUKUS is a trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, announced on September 15, 2021, for the Indo-Pacific region. Under the pact, the U.S. and the UK will help Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

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