'Not a Defence Pact': Australia Reassures ASEAN as Malaysia, Indonesia See Red Over AUKUS
14:18 GMT 20.09.2021 (Updated: 15:15 GMT 28.05.2023)
Indonesia and Malaysia have expressed serious concerns over the new alliance of Australia, the UK and the US, dubbed AUKUS, saying this could increase tensions and lead to an arms race in the Indo-Pacific region.
Reassuring its south-east Asian neighbours that Canberra is fully commitment towards Non-Proliferation Treaty
(NPT), Australia’s ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Will Nankervis, clarified on Monday that the nuclear submarines it is buying under the AUKUS arrangement will not carry nuclear weapons.
“Australia does not and will not seek such weapons. Nor do we seek to establish a civil nuclear capability,” Nankervis emphasised in a two-page statement issued after two major countries in the region voiced concerns about the deal.
Australia, the oldest dialogue partner in ASEAN, reiterated that the group will remain at the heart its Indo-Pacific policy even after joining AUKUS.
Justifying the formation of AUKUS, Nankervis highlighted how greatly the three allies depend on seaborne international trade. “Our naval capabilities are vital to Australia,” he said.
18 September 2021, 08:05 GMT
“As a party to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, Australia understands the critical importance to the countries of south-east Asia of the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone Treaty. Australia will at all times ensure our actions support these important treaties,” Nankervis underlined.
On Saturday, Malaysia joined Indonesia in expressing its fears about AUKUS
as Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison contacted his Malaysian counterpart Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob to pour oil on troubled waters and soothe the anger of the south-east Asian nations.
“The Malaysian PM is concerned over this cooperation. This AUKUS is going to catalyse the nuclear weapons race in the Indo-Pacific region. At the same time, it will provoke other powers to act more aggressively in the region, especially in the South China Sea,” a statement issued by the Malaysian government read.
Morrison’s trip to Indonesia, later this month, has also been cancelled as the fall-out over AUKUS continues, according to a Sky News report on 18 September. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said he is “deeply concerned over the continuing arms race and power projection in the region.”
A serious diplomatic row erupted after the UK, the US and Australia struck a new trilateral partnership, dubbed AUKUS, last week. Under the new arrangement, the US and the UK will help to build atomic-powered submarines for Australia, which resulted in that country cancelling its multi-billion dollar submarine deal with France. Paris has accused the US and Australia of betrayal and recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra.