Australia is committing to a $154 million package with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which have agreed to form a “comprehensive strategic partnership” with Australia.
Most of the money will support the 10 nations — which together represent Australia’s second-biggest trading partner — to address health security, terrorism and transnational crime, as well as energy security and economic initiatives and ocean health.
The package is also offering 100 scholarships for study in fields that advance the economic union’s strategic direction, and 350 vocational training scholarships.
“Australia supports a peaceful, stable, resilient, and prosperous region,” prime minister Scott Morrison and foreign affairs minister Marise Payne said in a joint statement.
“A strong, united, and resilient ASEAN is vital to our region’s success and supports Australia’s own security and prosperity.”
At an online summit on Wednesday night, Morrison sought to form a comprehensive strategic partnership with the nations, which he said would be backed “with substance” to “address complex challenges in the future”.
A summary of the meeting shows the nations agreed to join the “meaningful, substantive and mutually beneficial” partnership.
Morrison also highlighted that Australia would provide 60 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Indo-Pacific region by the end of next year, having so far delivered about four million doses.
“From late 2021 to mid-2022, we will share at least 10 million doses from our domestic supply with ASEAN countries,” he said.
Further to this, Australia is procuring 20 million vaccines for southeast Asian countries through the United Nations Children’s Fund.
“We are also ensuring critical delivery support across southeast Asia, to get vaccines to those who need them most,” Morrison said.
The prime minister also defended Australia’s new AUKUS security pact with the US and UK, which is supplying Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
“AUKUS does not change Australia’s commitment to ASEAN or the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. Indeed, it reinforces it,” he said.
“Australia remains deeply committed to international law and the rules-based order that has underpinned regional stability and prosperity, and which all ASEAN members depend.
“AUKUS does not change Australia’s deep, long-standing commitment to nuclear non-proliferation — Australia does not want and will not seek nuclear weapons, as I’ve assured all ASEAN members.”