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Senin, 20 September 2021

Australia's ambassador to ASEAN seeks to allay South-East Asian concerns over AUKUS - ABC News

Australian diplomats are intensifying their efforts to reassure South-East Asian nations about the federal government's plan to build nuclear-powered submarines under a new defence technology pact with the US and the UK.

It comes after two major South-East Asian nations — Indonesia and Malaysia — warned that the project could exacerbate tensions in the region and encourage other countries to build up their military arsenals. 

Indonesia's foreign ministry said it was "deeply concerned about the continuing arms race and power projection in the region" while Malaysia's new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the project could "provoke other powers to take more aggressive action in this region, especially in the South China Sea".

Some South-East Asian nations also worry that the new defence partnership between the US, Australia and the United Kingdom — known as AUKUS — could further marginalise the region's peak diplomatic group, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Australia's ambassador to ASEAN Will Nankervis issued a statement declaring that AUKUS "is not a defence alliance or pact" and that the agreement "does not change Australia's commitment to ASEAN nor our ongoing support for the ASEAN-led regional architecture".

The statement also stresses that Australia has no desire to acquire nuclear weapons and stresses that the proposed new submarines will not carry nuclear warheads. 

"Australia remains staunch in our support for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Australia will work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure full compliance with our NPT obligations as a Non-Nuclear Weapon State," Mr Nankervis said.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken speak from lecterns at a bilateral meet
Not everyone is pleased about the new defence partnership between the US, UK and Australia.(

Reuters: Andrew Harnik/Pool

)

The statement could also be part of a broader diplomatic push to head off further criticisms from South-East Asian countries. 

Some ASEAN nations have been pushing for the bloc to issue a joint statement raising concerns about AUKUS, although it is not yet clear if the initiative will succeed. 

Not all South-East Asian nations harbour similar concerns to Indonesia and Malaysia.

Singapore has not raised any objections to the Australian government's announcement while the Philippines issued a statement saying Australia has the right to boost its defences. 

The federal government also believes that Vietnam is comfortable with the proposal, although it has not yet issued any public statements.

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2021-09-20 06:51:10Z
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