Australia, US Commit Millions in Financial Aid to Southeast Asia Amid AUKUS Tensions
12:40 GMT 27.10.2021 (Updated: 08:57 GMT 15.11.2022)
Major Southeast Asian nations, including Indonesia and Malaysia, have expressed concerns over AUKUS, a new military pact between Australia, the UK, and the US, saying they fear the bloc will worsen the security situation in the region.
Australia has committed 10 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines and $94 million in financial aid to Southeast Asian nations to ward off "complex and emerging challenges" in the region.
Attempting to alleviate the anger of some nations in the area, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that AUKUS "does not change Australia's commitment to ASEAN
or the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific – indeed it reinforces it".
"AUKUS does not change Australia's deep, longstanding commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. Australia does not want, and will not seek, nuclear weapons – as I'm sure will all ASEAN members", Morrison said while addressing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday.
The Australian PM said that AUKUS reinforces the backing that Canberra has for an ASEAN-led regional architecture.
He said Australia remains deeply committed to international law and the "rules-based order that has underpinned regional security".
The $94 million fund will address challenges like COVID-19 recovery, terrorism, transnational crime, energy security, and transition to lower-emissions technology, and the circular economy.
Morrison has been facing criticism since announcing a trilateral security arrangement with the US and the UK on 15 September.
ASEAN members like Indonesia urged global powers to strengthen the rules related to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as current "loopholes" allow non-nuclear states to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
20 September 2021, 14:18 GMT
As per the White House, US President Joe Biden is set to announce $102 million in aid on Wednesday when he participate in the East Asia Summit, which brings together ASEAN and other nations in the Indo-Pacific region.
On Tuesday, Biden addressed ASEAN leaders, the first US president to do so since 2017, reinforcing America's commitment to the region amid China's growing influence.
"The relationship between the United States and ASEAN is vital, vital for the future of all one billion of our people", Biden said.
"Our partnership is essential to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, which has been the foundation of our shared security and prosperity for many decades", he added.
President Biden did not mention China in his speech on Tuesday.
Indian Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh made a veiled remark against China on Wednesday, saying certain states are applying a land-centric territorial mindset to the basic idea of global commons in an attempt to seek greater domination and control.
"Boundaries [are] not as important when it comes to defining [the] Indo-Pacific, whether it is touching eastern shore of Africa as India sees it, or ends at 68 degrees East as some countries see it", Indian Navy Chief Singh said while addressing the Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue in Delhi.
Malaysia and Indonesia indicated that ASEAN members might come up with a joint statement
that will elaborate a "shared response by member countries to AUKUS". These countries fear that ASEAN's centrality and unity could be at risk due to the involvement of a bigger power in the region.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, is made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.