No AUKUS Talks in Upcoming ASEAN Meeting: Indonesia
Jakarta, Indonesianpost.com – ASEAN chair Indonesia recently said that there would be no specific talks on AUKUS — the trilateral security pact between Australia, the US, and the UK — in the Southeast Asian bloc’s upcoming meeting in Jakarta.
ASEAN foreign ministers —along with the senior diplomats of other countries— are scheduled to gather in Jakarta next week for a string of foreign policy talks. The Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) is one of the main agenda of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting/Post-Ministerial Conference (AMM/PMC) that is to be held in Jakarta on July 11-14.
“The SEANWFZ Commission talks will focus on getting the five nuclear weapon states into acceding to the protocol of the SEANWFZ treaty. There will be no discussions on AUKUS or the nuclear-powered submarines,” Sidharto Suryodipuro, the director-general for ASEAN cooperation at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, told reporters in Jakarta on Friday.
In 1995, ASEAN member states inked the SEANWFZ treaty to preserve the Southeast Asian region to be free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The protocol to this treaty is open for signature by the five nuclear weapon states: China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US.
The AUKUS defense pact revolves around the US and the UK helping Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines. The Associated Press reported in March that Australia would purchase nuclear-powered attack submarines from the US. The deal has angered China who said that the submarine deal could hurt regional peace.
“We’ve repeatedly said that the establishment of the so-called AUKUS security partnership between the US, the UK, and Australia to promote cooperation on nuclear submarines and other cutting-edge military technologies is a typical Cold War mentality. It will only exacerbate the arms race, undermine the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, and hurt regional peace and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a presser back in March.
ASEAN, AUKUS, and Great Power Rivalry
International relations expert Evi Fitriani gave her take on ASEAN’s response to AUKUS amidst the growing tension between the US and China.
“The AUKUS is not part of the formal talks within ASEAN. Although ASEAN officials might have talked about it informally. The developments of AUKUS-China relations will affect ASEAN. Especially since China is in close proximity to the Southeast Asian bloc,” Evi said in a recent phone interview with the Jakarta Globe.
According to Evi, each ASEAN member state has differing perceptions of the US-China rivalry.
She added: “For instance, there are ASEAN member countries who openly support China such as Cambodia and Laos. Singapore and the Philippines are more pro-US, while Indonesia takes a more neutral stance. … So there are different perceptions, and ASEAN would rather avoid talking about the great power rivalries to prevent frictions.”
Rather than discussing AUKUS, there are other matters that ASEAN members should focus on such as the Indo-Pacific. Especially since the group has adopted the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which envisions the Indo-Pacific as a region of dialogue and cooperation instead of rivalry, according to Evi.