Australia envoy allays fears over nukes in alliance with UK, US
MANILA, Philippines — Australia’s new security pact with two nuclear-powered submarine states—United Kingdom and the United States—in the Indo-Pacific is not about nuclear weapons but security and stability in the region, according to Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson AO.
The Australian diplomat said his government had been briefing the Philippine government about the security pact, widely seen as an effort to counter China’s aggression in the Indo-Pacific. It would also allow Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines with shared technology provided by the US.
“We’ve been talking across the government about AUKUS — with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the National Security Adviser, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Defense— a whole range of people, to acquaint them with what AUKUS is and what AUKUS isn’t,” Robinson told reporters in a small reception for journalists at his Makati City residence on Wednesday (Oct. 6).
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier raised concern that the trilateral security partnership may trigger a nuclear arms race, even after the Department of National Defense and Department of Foreign Affairs welcomed the development.
Australia is the Philippines’ second largest partner in defense and security cooperation after the United States.
Robinson told reporters that Australia remained committed to being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. There will be no nuclear facility constructed in Australia and the submarines will not carry nuclear weapons.
“We were going to get 12 conventionally powered submarines,” he said of the scrapped multi-billion dollar submarine contract with France. “Now we’re going to get at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.”
“We’re just talking about changing the nature of the tool that we’re putting into our toolbox to provide for the defense of Australia,” he said.
“Australia determined that it needed to have an advanced capability to be able to look after itself and protect itself and to work with others in the region who are its friends,” Robinson went on.
American and Australian diplomats appeared to be escalating efforts to reassure Southeast Asian countries about the AUKUS. Some countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, have expressed concern about the nuclear-powered submarines. Others have not raised objections.
“This enhanced trilateral security partnership… will strengthen our ability to work with regional partners in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Robinson said.
“But, and this is really important. Our commitment to ASEAN centrality and working with the ASEAN-led regional architecture remains absolutely steadfast,” he added.
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