Editorial Notes

Asean can ward off Aukus' Cold War tactics: China Daily

The paper says it would be beneficial for the region and beyond if Asean could set up a firewall of common will to safeguard regional peace and stability.

Asean member state flags at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Building Complex in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on April 23, 2013. ST PHOTO: NURIA LING

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The new tripartite defense alliance, which the United States has formed with the United Kingdom and Australia, and the nuclear-powered submarine cooperation that has been initiated to accompany its launch, will only create instability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Many have joined China in voicing their concerns about the so-called Aukus security pact since it was announced in mid-September.

On Monday (Oct 18), the foreign ministers of Malaysia and Indonesia added their voices to those expressing concerns about Australia's plan to develop nuclear-powered submarines under the Aukus framework and the dangers of the intensifying geopolitical competition in the region.

Indeed, with the US firing up old and new alliances in the Asia-Pacific and militarizing the region in its bid to contain and isolate China, the region is in danger of becoming a powder keg awaiting a spark.

South-east Asian countries have maintained sound and mutually beneficial ties with China for decades, and the Covid-19 pandemic has only strengthened this. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) became China's largest trade partner last year.

Under such circumstances, the Asean member states should be wary of Aukus bearing false gifts. In light of the recent practices of the US, the Asean members should be prepared for overtures from Aukus on the national level that are aimed at worrying apart the bloc's unity, since Asean has been reluctant to take sides with the US in the latter's geopolitical competition with China.

How Asean should respond to Aukus is likely to feature in the bloc's summit meeting scheduled for later this month.

It would be beneficial for the region and beyond if Asean could set up a firewall of common will to safeguard regional peace and stability, so as to prevent Aukus from worming into any chinks that may exist in its unanimity and worrying the bloc apart.

A recent incident in the region involving a US submarine should help those who still cannot fathom the adverse impact Aukus may have on regional security. On Oct 2, the USS Connecticut, a US nuclear-powered submarine, struck an underwater object in the South China Sea.

The US has so far refused to provide more details about the incident, let alone explain what the submarine was doing in the area and whether the accident caused a nuclear leak that damaged the local marine environment.

Such an irresponsible attitude should be enough for Asean to question the wisdom of there being more nuclear-powered submarines in the region in the future, and to extrapolate from that the risks deriving from the US' tactics in its "competition" with China.

The Asean-centered regional cooperation architecture has proved effective in promoting peace and development in the region. It should be cherished and upheld by all the Asean members. Not least, because it is in their best interests.

  • China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media titles.

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