- The Washington Times
Friday, October 1, 2021

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will aim to ease the U.S.-France diplomatic rift with a trip to Paris next week, amid ongoing French outrage over President Biden‘s recent inking of a nuclear-powered submarine deal with Australia that undercut a previous $65 billion deal Canberra had signed with France.

The State Department did not mention the submarine deal fracas in announcing Mr. Blinken‘s visit, which is slated to occur Monday through Wednesday. A department statement Friday said a key focus of the trip will be discussions toward bolstering the bilateral relationship on a number of issues, “including security in the Indo-Pacific.”

Mr. Blinken will follow the France visit with a trip to Mexico next Thursday and Friday to lead a U.S. delegation participating in a high-level security dialogue there.

The France visit will be watched closely for signs of friction with the government of President Emmanuel Macron, who has used anger over the submarine deal to push fellow European countries to assert their independence from the current security reliance on the United States.

The Biden administration has downplayed the diplomatic tension with Paris while signaling it will press forward with the new security alliance with Australia and Britain.

As part of the new alliance, the U.S. will provide Australia with nuclear-powered technology for eight new submarines in a bid to bolster the West’s military assets in China’s backyard. Australia canceled a previous deal to buy French-built diesel-electric submarines. France was kept out of talks on the new strategic alliance and was only alerted just before the submarine deal shift was announced.

The Macron government responded by briefly recalling France‘s ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia — the first-ever such recall by Paris of an ambassador to Washington.

Mr. Macron ordered the ambassador to return to Washington last week, following a phone call with President Biden, after which the two leaders issued a joint statement saying French and U.S. officials would work on trying to restore “confidence” to the longstanding U.S.-France alliance.

The State Department said Friday that Mr. Blinken, who spent time growing up in France and speaks French, will chair a “Ministerial Council Meeting” of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and commemorate the OECD’s 60th anniversary.

Mr. Kerry, a former secretary of state himself who is now Mr. Biden‘s special envoy on climate issues, is traveling to Paris just weeks before the opening of a global summit on climate change in Britain

The State Department said the U.S. delegation will engage in discussions with French officials on a range of topics, including “the climate crisis, economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the transatlantic relationship, and working with our allies and partners to address global challenges and opportunities.”

Joseph Clark contributed to this story.

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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