CANBERRA, Australia — Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday rejected Chinese criticism of Australia’s new nuclear submarine alliance with the United States and said he doesn’t mind that President Joe Biden might have forgotten his name.
China reacted angrily when Biden, Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson used a virtual news conference this week to announce a trilateral defense alliance that will provide Australia with a fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian said it was “highly irresponsible” for the U.S. and Britain to export the nuclear technology.
Morrison said Australia wanted to boost peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Everything we’ve done with the United States is consistent with the partnerships and relationships and alliances we’ve already had with the United States,” Morrison told Radio 3AW.
News of the alliance received a positive response in Singapore. The island-state’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Morrison in a phone call he hoped the nuclear deal would “contribute constructively to the peace and stability of the region and complement the regional architecture,” Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
French leaders have been scathing of the deal that scuppers a contract with France to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines for Australia.
Observers say Biden appeared to have forgotten Morrison’s name during Thursday’s news conference, which was televised from three countries. The president referred to the Australian as “pal” and “that fellow Down Under.”
Biden didn’t use Morrison’s name, while he referred to Johnson as “Boris.”
It reminded Australians of when then-President Donald Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer repeatedly referred to Morrison’s predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, in 2017 as “Mr. Trumble.”