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© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens at a hearing held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill. Washington, U.S.A. September 14, 2021. Drew Angerer/Pool via REUTERS

By Daphne Psaledakis and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said France was a “vital partner” in the Indo-Pacific region and that Washington would continue to cooperate with Paris, comments that appeared aimed at calming French anger after the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom clinched a historic defense export contract to supply Australia with submarines.

On Wednesday, the three nations announced that they will establish an Indo-Pacific security partnership to help Australia purchase U.S.-powered submarines. This will also allow Australia to scrap the deal for a $40 billion submarine.

France has angrily reacted to the ending of the agreement, calling it “a stab in the back”.

Blinken stated that Washington had communicated with French counterparts since the announcement of their submarine agreement.

We have been working very closely with France in many areas, not only within the Indo-Pacific region but all over the globe. It’s something we will keep doing. Blinken explained that the relationship and partnership are of fundamental importance to us.

Australia selected Naval Group, a French shipbuilder to construct a $40 billion submarine fleet to replace the Collins subs.

The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.

Thursday’s White House defense of the U.S. decision was rejected by France and China.

Jen Psaki spoke out for the White House, stating that they do not seek to have conflict with China.

China stated that Australia, the United States and the UK are “severely detrimental to regional peace and stability.”

Psaki said that it was about the security of the Indo-Pacific.

She stated that Australia would be the one to answer why they were seeking this technology from America.

This is not a matter of a regional division. She said that she sees this as security and areas we all want to tackle together.

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