President Biden announced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance with Britain and Australia on Wednesday, and in doing so, appeared to forget Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's name. "Thank you, Boris," he said to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the latter dialed in from London for the televised White House announcement. As Morrison joined virtually from Canberra, Biden turned to a screen showing his face. "And I want to thank that, uh, that fellow Down Under," Biden said. "Thank you very much, pal. Appreciate it, Mr. Prime Minister." While Morrison gave a smile and a thumbs up, Australians "squirmed" in response, per AFP.
The "AUKUS" defense pact, granting Australia the technology for a new nuclear-powered submarine fleet, "may not have got off to the shining start for which Morrison hoped," Tony Wright writes at the Sydney Morning Herald, noting Biden’s reference indicated the "little-brother nature of Australia's position among the powers." But "as far as awkward moments go for an Australian leader engaging in diplomatic relations with the US, being called 'pal' is pretty tame," ABC Australia reports, referring to this 2017 gaffe.
Biden soon after referred to Morrison by name, "perhaps with the help of a teleprompter," per ABC. Under the Twitter hashtag #ThatFellaDownUnder, onlookers debated whether Biden had a memory slip or was using a term of endearment. Morrison, Politico notes, is Australia's fifth prime minister since 2013. Not to be overlooked is the defense deal itself, which will see the three countries "share information in areas including artificial intelligence, cyber and underwater defense capabilities," per the AP. "To date, the only country that the United States has shared nuclear propulsion technology with is Britain," it adds.
"To meet these new challenges, to help deliver the security and stability our region needs, we must now take our partnership to a new level," said Morrison, who described "a forever partnership for a new time between the oldest and most trusted of friends." None of the leaders mentioned China in their remarks, though the deal is largely viewed as a response to China's increasing presence in the Indo-Pacific. The Guardian notes the country "now possesses the world's largest navy." (Read more President Biden stories.)