Ambassador highlights AUKUS security benefits for Indo-Pacific

By Melissa Coade

Tuesday September 21, 2021

ASEAN flags. (EPA/NYEIN CHAN NAING)

The new trilateral AUKUS security partnership has been described by Australia’s ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc (ASEAN) as an asset to regional security in the Indo-Pacific, which will not pose any threat to the vision of a locally-led regional architecture but strengthen it.

Will Nankervis, Australia’s ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc (ASEAN), published his views on Monday. The statement outlined Australia’s ongoing commitment to the efforts of the bloc and expressed appreciation for ASEAN cooperation opportunities in military medicine, peacekeeping operations and counter terrorism efforts. 

“In a rapidly changing strategic environment, Australia’s participation in AUKUS will strengthen our ability to work with regional partners in support of regional stability and security, within the rules-based framework on which our collective prosperity is built,” Nankervis said.

“Australia is also committed to upholding our obligations under the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, as we have since we acceded in 2005, and to working with ASEAN and its member states to advance peace and prosperity in our region.  

“We do this so that we can all grow and prosper in an open, stable and inclusive region, with ASEAN at its centre,” he said. 

The ambassador clarified that the trilateral partnership announced by Scott Morrison together with the news that Australia would build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines was not a defence alliance or pact. He also reassured ASEAN members that Australia continued to staunchly support the UN treaty on the Non-Proliferation (NTP) of Nuclear Weapons and would continue to comply with all NTP obligations as a non-nuclear weapon state.

Nankervis went on to explain that Australia’s naval capabilities were essential given it was a ‘three-ocean nation’ and relied on seaborne international trade. He said the submarine fleet was the first initiative of many others in the future that would ‘leverage the expertise’ of the UK and US.

“While these submarines will be nuclear powered, they will not carry nuclear weapons. Australia does not and will not seek such weapons. Nor do we seek to establish a civil nuclear capability.”

“We remain committed to reinforcing international confidence in the integrity of the international non-proliferation regime, and to upholding our global leadership in this domain,” the ambassador said.

Australia would continue to support an ‘open, inclusive and prosperous region with ASEAN at its heart’, and was still committed to the vision of the 2019 outlook document agreed to by the bloc of nations for the Indo-Pacific, he added. This included ongoing partnership with ASEAN members to take on issues like sustainable marine resource development, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, economic development and the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The rules-based maritime order of the Indo-Pacific region and supporting all countries to uphold their rights and freedoms consistent with the UN Convention law of the sea was paramount to Australia, the ambassador said. 

“[The AUKUS] agreement does not change Australia’s commitment to ASEAN nor our ongoing support for the ASEAN-led regional architecture.

“We are committed to continuing to foster a peaceful, secure region with ASEAN at its centre, and to complementing and strengthening the existing ASEAN-led architecture,” Nankervis said.


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