MANILA – Australia’s move to forge a trilateral partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom complements the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, Australian Ambassador Steven J. Robinson AO said on Wednesday.
The pact, known as AUKUS, provides for Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, which Canberra believes is “appropriate” to beef up its defense capabilities against the backdrop of a rapidly changing security environment in the region.
Robinson assured that Australia is sticking to its commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“We’re just going to get the propulsion mechanism from the US and the UK, no nuclear weapon. Being a signatory to the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation, we’re not changing anything,” he told reporters during a dinner at his residence in Makati City.
“It is just about a capability that’s important to Australia’s Indo-Pacific strategy, it does not impinge upon anyone else’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific and is indeed complementary to– our approach is complementary to the Asean outlook for the Indo-Pacific,” he added.
The Asean Outlook, initiated and pushed by Indonesia, provides for the bloc’s engagement in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, with an aim to maintain peace, freedom and prosperity in the area.
Robinson said plans to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, enhance cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and undersea capabilities would not only boost Australia’s capabilities but also strengthen its ability to work with regional partners in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
“AUKUS is an important partnership for Australia and our commitment to Asean centrality and working with Asean-led regional architecture remains steadfast,” he said.
At the recent Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the Department of Foreign Affairs reiterated its previous position, saying the Philippines “sees value in the enhancement of a neighbor’s capability to project power” and that it “believes it will restore and keep the balance in the region, rather than destabilize it.”
“We continuously assess this agreement and welcome efforts made by the countries concerned to explain it further,” said Ambassador Ma. Theresa Lazaro, DFA Acting Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and Asean Affairs. (PNA)