Malaysia, Indonesia Concerned AUKUS Pact May Lead to Arms Race, Instability
Malaysia joined Indonesia in expressing concern that a new security pact involving Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. may spark a nuclear arms race in the Indo-Pacific region.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison called his Malaysian counterpart Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Friday to explain that the formation of the tripartite group — known as AUKUS — was to help it acquire nuclear-powered submarines, according to a statement from the Malaysian government.
Ismail told Morrison he was concerned AUKUS could provoke other powers to act more aggressively in the region, especially in the South China Sea. The two leaders renewed commitments to ensure peace, especially in the Indo-Pacific, according to the statement.
Indonesia earlier said it was “deeply concerned” over the continuing arms race and power projection in the region, and called on Australia to meet its nuclear non-proliferation obligations and to uphold the rule of law as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, or UNCLOS. Singapore struck a neutral tone, with the city-state saying it hopes the deal “would contribute constructively to the peace and stability of the region and complement the regional architecture.”
The AUKUS alliance will see Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. exchanging technology and intelligence. The agreement, announced Wednesday, canceled a 2016 deal that Australia sealed with France to acquire 12 diesel-powered subs from French shipbuilder Naval Group, a move viewed in Paris as a betrayal that damaged trans-Atlantic ties.
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Malaysia to Seek China’s Views on Australia’s Nuclear Subs Deal
Malaysia will seek China’s view on a security pact that helps Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines amid concerns of regional instability, Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in parliament.
The so-called AUKUS partnership announced last week will see U.S. and Britain support Australia in building nuclear-powered submarines. China has since warned that the alliance will spur an arms race in the region.
“We need to get the views from the leadership of China, especially China’s defense, on what was announced by the three countries and what is their (China’s) action” on the AUKUS partnership, Hishammuddin said on Wednesday. He proposed an immediate working visit to China.
Hishammuddin said he has advised his Australian counterpart to seek views from Brunei and countries close to China. He said he shares Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s view that parties should avoid the use of military action to prevent an arms race in a region riven by maritime territorial disputes.
The focus now is to balance AUKUS with the Five Power Defence Arrangement, a bilateral defense relationship between Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K., Hishammuddin said. Signed in 1971, the accord provides for the five countries to consult each other immediately following an armed attack against any of them.
“What we have built since 50 years ago from FPDA can be used as a leverage to balance the big powers,” he said.