BLUF

Australia needs to be sensitive and needs to manage its relationships with ASEAN due to the new AUKUS agreement.

Summary

The Australia, the US and UK (AUKUS) alliance surprised ASEAN. Key points are:

  • Indonesia and Malaysia have come out strongly against Australia’s proposed fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, arguing it will lead to an arms race.
  • Even Singapore, Australia’s most reliable ally in the region, has expressed concern.
  • Japan, South Korea, and probably Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam support AUKUS.
  • There is a feeling AUKUS is to reassure Indo-Pacific countries after the Afghanistan withdrawal.
  • Many in ASEAN think nuclear-powered submarines equals future nuclear weapons.
  • Australia has not joined the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 
  • ASEAN members created the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. No nuclear power is a signatory.
  • Australian nuclear-powered submarines may make the Chinese more nervous and increase naval “close encounters”.     
  • The ASEAN states are concerned about being caught in China-US rivalry.
  • AUKUS shows ASEAN members opinions don’t matter, and Australia isn’t part of the region.

    References