The Indo-Pacific security pact between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia (AUKUS) does not change Canberra’s commitment to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Australia’s envoy to the regional bloc said on Monday.
AUKUS is “not a defense alliance or pact,” Will Nankervis said in a statement, adding that the “enhanced security partnership” between the three nations “will allow us to better share technology and capability.”
“Our commitment to Asean centrality remains as steadfast as ever … We are committed to continuing to foster a peaceful, secure region with Asean at its center, and to complementing and strengthening the existing Asean-led architecture,” he said.
Under the AUKUS pact, the US and UK will provide Australia technology to build nuclear-powered submarines.
However, Nankervis stressed that Australia has no desire to acquire nuclear weapons.
“While these submarines will be nuclear powered, they will not carry nuclear warheads. Australia does not and will not seek such weapons. Nor do we seek to establish a civil nuclear capability,” the ambassador clarified.
“Australia remains steadfast in our support for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Australia will work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure full compliance with our NPT obligations as a Non-Nuclear Weapons State,” he said.
He said Canberra is “Asean’s oldest dialogue partner” and remains a strong supporter of the “Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.”
“We are 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,” he added.
Since the alliance was unveiled, Indonesia has urged Australia to fulfill its obligations as an NPT signatory, with the Foreign Ministry conveying that Jakarta “is deeply concerned over the continuing arms race and power projection in the region.”
“Indonesia stresses the importance of Australia’s commitment to continue meeting all of its nuclear non-proliferation obligations … [and] calls on Australia to maintain its commitment towards regional peace, stability and security,” the ministry said in a statement last week.
Asean is composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.