MANILA – The Philippine government has welcomed Australia’s decision to establish a trilateral partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom, citing its advantage in maintaining peace and security in Southeast Asia.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said an ally’s proximity to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) allows it to respond in a timely manner to a threat or even to a challenge to the status quo in the region “if only for the extra time it gives all the protagonists to think before reacting.
“Proximity makes response time short; thereby enhancing the military capability of a close friend and ASEAN ally to respond in a timely and proportionate manner to a threat to the region or a challenge to the status quo. This requires enhancing Australia’s ability, along with that of its main military ally, to achieve this benchmarking, ”he said in a statement.
Locsin said that ASEAN member states “do not, alone or collectively, possess the military means to maintain peace and security in Southeast Asia, discourage the sudden creation of crises and avoid disproportionate and hasty responses. of the great rival powers ”.
“There is an imbalance in the forces available to ASEAN member states, with the main balancer in over half the world. Improving the ability of a close ally abroad to project power should restore and maintain the balance rather than destabilize it, ”he said.
AUKUS (Australia, UK and US), unveiled last week, is said to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea where it claims nearly 80 percent one hundred strategic waters under its what’s known as the nine-dash line which was struck down by an arbitral tribunal based in The Hague.
It will also provide Australia with the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines, a partnership denounced by China, which says it risks escalating the arms race and undermining international non-proliferation efforts.
Australia’s actions reflect its concerns about the “geographic imbalance” in the Indo-Pacific and its desire to help maintain regional peace and security, Locsin said.
“It is his prerogative. In the absence of the effective presence of nuclear weapons, we cannot conclude that there has been a violation of the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty. We are open to discuss this with other governments, ”he said.
“We appreciate Australia’s continued and absolute commitment to fulfill its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to the highest standards of nuclear management,” he added.
Locsin recognized that the dynamics and vast geographic scope of the Indo-Pacific require multilateral groupings that are “flexible and adaptable”.
But for the Philippines, he said, Australia’s commitment to the primacy of ASEAN perspectives over Indo-peaceful and ASEAN-led mechanisms is essential.
“None of these mechanisms are compromised, weakened or in conflict with improving Australia’s response capacity; quite the contrary, ”he declared.
“The Philippines strives for the South China Sea to remain a sea of peace, security, stability and prosperity. We are perfectly aware of the great dynamics of power; with a keen eye, we will engage in practical and mutually beneficial cooperation aligned with the priority areas of the outlook, ”he added.