CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday rejected China’s criticism of Australia’s new nuclear submarine alliance with the United States, saying he does not care that President Joe Biden has forgotten his name.
China reacted angrily when Biden, Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson used a virtual press conference This week to announce a trilateral defense alliance that will provide Australia with a fleet of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it was “very irresponsible” for the United States and Britain to export nuclear technology.
Morrison said Australia wanted to promote peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Everything we have done with the United States is consistent with the partnerships and relationships and alliances that we have already had with the United States,” Morrison told Radio 3AW.
News of the alliance received a positive response in Singapore. The prime minister of the island state, Lee Hsien Loong, told Morrison in a phone call that he hoped the nuclear deal would “contribute constructively to the peace and stability of the region and complement the regional architecture,” the Ministry of Justice said. Singapore’s Foreign Relations in a statement.
French leaders have been scathing about the deal that ruins 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 press conference, which was televised from three countries. The president referred to the Australian as “friend” and “that guy from Down Under.”
Biden did not use Morrison’s name, while referring to Johnson as “Boris.”
It reminded Australians when then-President Donald Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, repeatedly referred to Morrison’s predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, in 2017 as “Mr. Trumble “.
Morrison laughed at what some described as an awkward exchange with Biden that undermined Australia’s importance to the United States.
“Usually when we speak in private, he refers to me as ‘friend,'” Morrison told Seven Network.
Morrison said he and the president enjoyed an excellent working relationship.
“Oh, I didn’t pay much attention to it. I mean, these things happen. They happen frequently, ”Morrison told Nine Network.
“Every now and then, you know, I have forgotten that some strange name slips from my memory; that’s quite normal in our line of work, I have to be honest, “he added.
Morrison said he referred to Biden as “Mr. President ”or“ partner ”in private conversations.
Morrison will visit the United States next week for the first time since Biden became president. The leaders of India and Japan will join the pair for a Quad security dialogue meeting.