Singapore Welcomes U.S.-Australia Submarine Deal but EU Furious at Being Left Out

Singapore welcomed the news of Australia's new nuclear submarine alliance with the United States, but French leaders and the European Union were furious at being excluded from the alliance, according to the Associated Press.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke to his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, in a phone call. Lee said he hopes the deal will "contribute constructively to the peace and stability of the region and complement the regional architecture," the ministry said.

The news was less welcome in other regions, such as the EU. French leaders are angry at being left out of the deal because it scraps a contract France had to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines for Australia, the AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

U.S.-Australia Nuclear Deal
Singapore welcomed the news of a nuclear submarine agreement between Australia and the United States, the city-state's Foreign Ministry said. Above, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, speaks with Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton and Foreign Minister Marise Payne at the State Department on Thursday. Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

On Friday, Morrison rejected Chinese criticism of the submarine alliance 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 said.

Australia's nearest neighbor after Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, was "deeply concerned over the continuing arms race and power projection in the region," the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

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."

Morrison laughed off what some have described as an awkward exchange with Biden that undermined Australia's significance to the United States.

"Usually when we speak privately, he refers to me as 'pal,'" Morrison said.

Morrison said he and the president enjoyed a great working relationship.

"Oh, I didn't pay much attention to it. I mean, these things happen. They happen frequently," Morrison said. "From time to time, you know, I've been known to let the odd name slip from my memory—that's pretty normal in our line of work, I've got to be honest."

Morrison said he referred to Biden as "Mr. President" or "mate" in private conversations.

Morrison will visit the United States next week for the first time since Biden became president. They will be joined by the leaders of India and Japan for a meeting of the Quad security dialogue.

Nuclear Submarine Deal
The submarine USS Oklahoma City returns to the U.S. naval base in Guam on August 19. Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Naomi Johnson/U.S. Navy via AP