- Sputnik International, 1920, 21.09.2021
On 15 September, the US, UK, and Australia announced the new trilateral AUKUS defence partnership. While the partners said it's designed to protect and defend "our shared interests in the Indo-Pacific", some experts believe the true purpose of the partnership is to counter China.

Malaysia Claims New AUKUS Alliance May Spark Nuclear Arms Race in Indo-Pacific

© REUTERS / LIM HUEY TENGKuala Lumpur, Malaysia. File photo
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. File photo  - Sputnik International, 1920, 18.09.2021
On late Wednesday, Australia, the UK, and the US announced a defence partnership called AUKUS, which allows Canberra to secure the backing of Washington and London in its bid to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
The Malaysian Prime Minister's Office has warned that the new AUKUS pact, which envisages Australia building eight nuclear-propelled submarines, may trigger a nuclear arms race in the Indo-Pacific region.
“It will provoke other powers to also act more aggressively in the region, especially in the South China Sea”, the statement pointed out, urging all the sides to avoid any provocation and arms competition in the Indo-Pacific.
The statement did not mention China, but Beijing lays claims to large swaths of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands, with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, as well as Taiwan, having overlapping claims.
The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group transits in formation with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group while conducting dual carrier and airwing operations in the Philippine Sea June 23, 2020. - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.09.2021
AUKUS Will Make Indo-Pacific Fiercely Contested, Sinologist Says
The US has no claims to the South China Sea territories, but it often sends its warships to the area to carry out "freedom of navigation" missions. This draws harsh criticism from Beijing, which describes such acts as "provocations" that pose a threat to regional security.
The Malaysian Prime Minister's Office added that as a country within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Malaysia “holds the principle of maintaining ASEAN as a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOFPAN)”.
The statement comes after the Philippine Foreign Ministry said on Friday that Manila recognises Canberra’s right to acquire a nuclear submarine fleet and that the Philippines intends to build up its own defence capabilities in the region “to protect its territories”.
The US, Australia, and the UK stressed on Wednesday that the new trilateral AUKUS defence partnership is not directed against anyone, but the initiative is widely seen as a response to China's growing clout in the Indo-Pacific.
Beijing was quick to express concern over the new pact, saying that it “seriously undermines regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race, and harms international non-proliferation efforts". China also accused the AUKUS signatories of having a "Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice".
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