Australia and Asean ties: A hard slog ahead

Australia is embracing its Asian connections and engaging with Asean. But there are inherent difficulties, not least differences on regional security.

Modern Australia has been a consistent friend of Asean, becoming the grouping's first dialogue partner in 1974. PHOTO: ST FILE
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For decades, Australia was seen as an Anglo-Saxon outpost and even America's "deputy sheriff", a country set apart from South-east Asia and the wider region. With its growing engagement with South-east Asia, however, Australia is slowly stepping out to embrace its connections to Asia.

Speaking at a special lecture on Australia-Asean relations organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) last Wednesday, Foreign Minister Penny Wong spoke eloquently about Australia's longstanding connections with South-east Asia. Beginning in the 1700s (well before European settlement in Australia), traders from Makassar had apparently sought sea cucumber from the native peoples in Arnhem Land in Australia.

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