Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen attends the annual informal summer meeting of the Nordic prime ministers in Rey...

Denmark sides with U.S. against French criticism of defense deal

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark is siding with the United States in the dispute with its fellow EU member France over a major Indo-Pacific defense deal.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in a newspaper interview that she wants to warn against turning “concrete challenges, which will always exist between allies, into something they should not be.”

France has reacted strongly to the deal between the U.S., Britain and Australia. As part of it, Australia will cancel a multibillion-dollar contract to buy diesel-electric French submarines and acquire U.S. nuclear-powered vessels instead.

The French government is suggesting it was betrayed by the deal, and on Tuesday, the EU agreed to put the dispute at the top of the bloc’s political agenda.

“In the light of the discussions that are taking place right now in Europe, I think it is important to say that I experience (U.S. President Joe) Biden as very loyal to the trans-Atlantic alliance,” Frederiksen told Danish newspaper Politiken on Wednesday.

In a half-hour telephone call also Wednesday that the White House described as “friendly,” President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Biden agreed to meet next month to discuss the way forward. The call suggested a cooling of tempers. France also agreed to send back its ambassador that it had recalled from Washington.

Asked whether she can understand the French criticism, Frederiksen replied: “No, I cannot. I do not understand that at all.”

She stressed that that did not mean Denmark agreed with the U.S. on everything.

“We have said that we would have liked to see another exit from Afghanistan,” she said. “But I have no frustrations at all in relation to the new American administration.”

Denmark, a NATO member, has been a staunch supporter of the U.S. It backed the war in Iraq and maintained some 12,000 soldiers in Afghanistan from 2002 until the U.S. withdrawal this year.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian issued a statement Thursday saying he held a bilateral meeting with his American counterpart Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the United Nations summit aimed at “restoring confidence” between their two countries.

Le Drian said the New York meeting took place in the light of Wednesday’s call between Macron and Biden.

Le Drian’s statement noted that the “way out of the crisis between our two countries would take time and would require action.”