Australia promises more aid to Asean, seeks stronger ties and gives assurance on Aukus

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaking during the virtual Asean-Australia summit from Canberra on Oct 27, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CANBERRA (REUTERS) - Australia said on Wednesday (Oct 27) it will donate at least 10 million more Covid-19 vaccine doses and offer A$124 million (S$126 million) in financial aid to South-east Asia, as Canberra seeks to strengthen ties with countries in the region.

Speaking at an online summit with leaders of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean), Prime Minister Scott Morrison pressed the case for a proposed comprehensive strategic partnership agreement with the 10-member bloc.

"Asean is at the centre of the Indo-Pacific and we back this both through our words and our actions," Mr Morrison told Asean leaders.

Australia's push for a stronger relationship with Asean comes amid growing concerns about China's activities and influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Morrison said a comprehensive strategic partnership would be more than just a label, urging Asean to consider positively the proposal for enhanced ties.

"We will back it with substance that positions our partnership to address complex problems in the future," Mr Morrison said.

He highlighted problems such as Covid-19, transnational crime and energy security, as he said Canberra will offer another A$124 million to fund projects to address these issues.

At the online summit, Mr Morrison also spoke about Australia's new Aukus partnership with the United States and Britain, reassuring Asean that the country remains deeply committed to nuclear non-proliferation, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported.

Under the agreement, Australia would develop nuclear-powered submarines that would be conventionally armed.

"Aukus does not change Australia's commitment to Asean or the Asean outlook on the Indo-Pacific - indeed it reinforces it," said Mr Morrison, as quoted by AAP. He also stressed that the pact was an enhanced capability and technology-sharing partnership.

"Aukus adds to our network of partnerships that support regional stability and security," he added.

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