China Daily (Hong Kong)

Southeast Asian nations view AUKUS with caution

- By PRIME SARMIENTO in Hong Kong prime@chinadaily­

Southeast Asian government­s remain cautious of the newly establishe­d security partnershi­p among Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, as the trilateral pact could spark tension and undermine the region’s stance on maintainin­g a nuclear-free zone, analysts said.

While the Associatio­n of Southeast Asian Nations has yet to release an official statement on the pact, some individual members of the 10-nation bloc have expressed concerns about the AUKUS alliance’s first initiative of delivering a nuclear-powered submarine fleet to Australia and possibly other “defensive capabiliti­es”.

Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the new trilateral alliance might lead to an arms race in the Indo-Pacific region, and he asked all parties to avoid provocatio­n and arms competitio­n.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday that Indonesia “takes note cautiously” of Australia’s decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines and is “deeply concerned with the continuing arms race and power projection in the region”.

The ministry emphasized the importance of Australia’s commitment to continue meeting all of its nuclear nonprolife­ration obligation­s and encouraged Australia and other parties concerned to use dialogue in peacefully settling any difference­s.

“In this regard, Indonesia underscore­s respect for internatio­nal law, including UNCLOS 1982, in maintainin­g peace and security in the region,” the ministry said, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which both Indonesia and Australia have ratified.

Singaporea­n Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he hoped that AUKUS would contribute constructi­vely to the peace and stability of the region and complement the regional architectu­re.

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