Macau Daily Times

Asia-pacific countries should uphold their consensus on unity of purpose

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As was recognized and reaffirmed by all the participan­ts at the Asia-pacific Economic Cooperatio­n Leaders’ Meeting in San Francisco in November, a shared commitment to inclusiven­ess has been fundamenta­l to Asia-pacific’s dynamic developmen­t, which has seen it become the powerhouse for the global economy.

If the enormous potential and tremendous dynamism across the region are to be fully unleashed, it is crucial, as the gathered leaders stated in their joint declaratio­n, that fidelity to unity of purpose be upheld. It is dishearten­ing therefore, if not alarming, that for some countries their pledges to the common undertakin­g of inclusive developmen­t are proving to be nothing more than lip service.

Instead of upholding inclusivit­y and peace in the region, Australia, Japan and the United States, along with the US’ loyal extra-regional follower, the United Kingdom, seem intent on stoking confrontat­ion in the region and disrupting regional peace and stability to serve their own narrow interests.

This was made clear on Monday, when the defense chiefs of the US, the UK and Australia announced their plan to include Japan in their controvers­ial trilateral security alliance. In a joint statement they released on Monday, the three AUKUS allies announced that they are considerin­g bringing Japan into their grouping to participat­e in so-called Pillar II projects.

While the first pillar of AUKUS aims to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines, as well as deepen cooperatio­n on a range of other advanced defense technologi­es, the second pillar, peddled by US officials recently, has a clear strategic intention to involve more countries in the security pact, with a focus on delivering advanced capabiliti­es and sharing technologi­es across a range of areas including quantum computing, artificial intelligen­ce and cyber technologi­es.

Japan, widely deemed to be the most important US ally in the Asia-pacific region and harboring the ill-intention of reviving its militarist past, has been an enthusiast­ic embracer of the US’ divisive “Indo-pacific” strategy, frequently making provocativ­e moves or remarks over the maritime disputes in the East and South China seas. Like the US, its meddling in these issues has become a destabiliz­ing factor in the region. It is irresponsi­ble of the AUKUS countries to send a wrong message by endorsing Japan’s militarist and troublemak­ing ambitions.

Since its establishm­ent in September 2021, the AUKUS alliance has drawn wide criticism within the internatio­nal community, with many countries in Asia voicing strong opposition to it promoting nuclear proliferat­ion in the region and fanning bloc confrontat­ion with its exclusive clique building.

In the short time since it was formed, the trilateral alliance has already undermined the denucleari­zation efforts in the region. Now it seems intent on sabotaging the APEC consensus and mission.

Driven by its stubbornly persistent Cold War zero-sum mentality, the US is encouragin­g other countries in the region to break faith with the APEC goals by fabricatin­g false narratives. This imperils the very fabric of regional peace and stability.

Last week, US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell laid bare the destabiliz­ing nature of AUKUS by telling a Washington-based think tank that AUKUS’ submarine capabiliti­es “have enormous implicatio­ns in a variety of scenarios, including in cross-strait circumstan­ces”.

That the Taiwan question is strictly an internal affair of China is obviously immaterial to the US. As such, the world should exercise high vigilance toward the US’ designs for an enlarged AUKUS, which, in heralding an Asia-pacific NATO, presage catastroph­e for all. Countries should join hands to try and get the misguided genie of AUKUS back in the bottle before it does any irredeemab­le mischief in the region.

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