S'pore welcomes Australia's assurance that defence pact with US & UK will promote stability in region

Asean and Australia share a similar strategic regional outlook, PM Lee said.

Faris Alfiq | October 27, 2021, 10:08 PM

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Singapore welcomes Australia's assurance that its defence pact with the United States and the United Kingdom will promote a stable and secure Asia Pacific region, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Oct. 27.

Addressing the AUKUS issue during the first Asean-Australia Summit, which was held virtually, he said that both Asean and Australia share a similar strategic regional outlook.

"Singapore welcomes new regional architecture formulations that support Asean Centrality, deepen economic integration, and promote a stable and secure Asia-Pacific region and a rules-based order, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea," he said.

PM Lee also said Singapore welcomes Australia's assurances that AUKUS will be consistent with these criteria.

Singapore hoped the arrangement contributes to peace and stability

Previously, Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said AUKUS is a development that is part of a larger geo-strategic realignment against the backdrop of the relationship between the U.S. and China.

Elaborating on Singapore's position on the defence alliance, Vivian said the nation has a longstanding and constructive relationship with all three countries, which is helpful as it means the city-state is "not unduly anxious about these new developments".

"The fact that we are friends to everyone means we're able to speak honestly, constructively, and they know we're not against any party, which gives us a slightly unique role to engage in constructive conversations with all parties," he said.

Still, Vivian cautioned that Singapore has to be "very, very careful" in making sure that it doesn't end up in a position that's "dangerous", or one which can lead to "adverse consequences".

The foreign affairs minister also said Singapore hopes these new arrangements will contribute constructively to peace and stability in our region, and complement the regional architecture with Asean as the centre.

Annual summits reflective of Asean-Australia relationship

In the first summit between Asean and Australia, PM Lee said the decision to hold annual summits reflects the Asean-Australia relationship, which is broad and multifaceted, spanning across all three Asean community pillars.

Besides upholding Asean centrality in the regional architecture, PM Lee also outlined other areas to further strengthen Asean-Australia partnership.

On post-pandemic recovery, PM Lee said Asean is grateful for Australia's steadfast commitment to vaccine multilateralism and regional recovery.

"As Covid-19 becomes endemic, it will be even more important for us to cooperate and pool our resources to ensure safe, equitable, and timely access to vaccines," he said.

"This would allow us to reopen our borders in a safe and calibrated manner and resume cross-border business and economic activities."

Another area that both Asean and Australia could cooperate is through smart cities.

In particular, PM Lee said both could strengthen the cooperation to exploit the economic opportunities in a growing global digital economy.

In addition, PM Lee said he looks forward to continuing Asean's strong partnership with Australia on longstanding priorities such as climate change, transboundary haze pollution, counterterrorism and the preservation of regional peace and stability.

Asean welcomes Australia's engagement in constructive dialogue in Myanmar

During the summit, PM Lee also touched on the situation in Myanmar, saying that Singapore remains "gravely concerned" about the situation there, including the ongoing violence.

"We are disappointed by the lack of tangible progress in the implementing the Five-Point Consensus and urge the Myanmar military authorities to cooperate fully with the Asean Special Envoy and abide by its commitments in line with the purpose and intent of the Five-Point Consensus," he said.

PM Lee called for the immediate release of all political detainees as well, including President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and Australian national Sean Turnell.

PM Lee said Asean thanked Australia for its pledge of A$5 million (S$5.06 million) to the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) following the Asean Leaders' Meeting in April this year.

Asean also welcomes Australia's willingness to engage in constructive dialogue in support of the people of Myanmar and the country's democratic transition.

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Top image via MCI.