Australia’s ASEAN allies have been assured AUKUS “is not a security pact” amid fears it may alter the regional security landscape.
Minister for Defence Peter Dutton has met virtually with regional counterparts for the ASEAN-Australia Informal Defence Ministers’ Meeting.
On the agenda was the newly established AUKUS alliance between Australia, the UK, and the US, with Minister Dutton allaying fears it would alter the strategic balance in the region.
Minister Dutton stressed AUKUS “was not a defence alliance or security pact” and would not change Australia’s security posture, confirming it would only serve as a complementary “framework for sharing technology and capability”.
This comes amid criticism from some regional partners, including Indonesia and Malaysia, who fear the deal could spark a regional arms race.
During his meeting with ASEAN counterparts, Minister Dutton also reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to expanding the resident Defence attaché and adviser network to all ASEAN member states.
Other issues discussed included:
- the roll-out of training on peacekeeping and Women, Peace and Security;
- Australia becoming the first Plus partner to join ASEAN’s Direct Communications Infrastructure; and
- the doubling of the ASEAN-Australia Defence Postgraduate Scholarship Program.
“ASEAN sits at the heart of the Indo-Pacific and Australia is proud to be ASEAN’s oldest Dialogue Partner and a long-standing partner for defence co-operation,” Minister Dutton said.
“Australia is also a strong supporter of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which aligns with our vision for an open, inclusive and resilient region based on sovereignty and international law.
“We remain committed to the principles in the Outlook, including ASEAN centrality, openness, transparency, inclusivity, good governance, a rules-based framework and respect for sovereignty and international law.”
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He added: “We look forward to working closely with ASEAN partners to set out how the Outlook applies from a defence perspective.”
[Related: Pacific partners hold security talks]