Australia’s decision to enhance its military capacity through a deal with the United States and the United Kingdom would benefit the region in the long term, the Philippines’ top diplomat said Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Philippines welcomes Australia’s enhanced trilateral security partnership with the US and the UK.
Locsin noted that ASEAN member states do not possess the military capacity to maintain peace and security in Southeast Asia.
“Proximity breeds brevity in response time; thereby enhancing an ASEAN near friend and ally’s military capacity to respond in timely and commensurate fashion to a threat to the region or a challenge to the status quo,” Locsin said.
The country’s top diplomat added that the actions of Australia reflect its concerns about the “geographic imbalance” in the region.
“In that regard, we believe that the fresh enhancement of Australia’s military capacity through this trilateral security partnership would be beneficial in the long term even to the other side if only for the additional time it affords all protagonists for reflection before reacting,” he said.
Locsin added that the Philippines appreciates Australia’s continued commitment to meeting its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which seeks to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.
Having multilateral groupings in the Indo-Pacific provides the capacity to respond to changes in the regional military balance, according to the DFA chief.
“For the Philippines, what is essential is Australia’s commitment to the primacy of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and ASEAN-led mechanisms,” Locsin said.
“The Philippines aspires for the South China Sea to remain a sea of peace, security, stability, and prosperity. We are acutely aware of great power dynamics; with a sharp eye we will engage in practical and mutually beneficial cooperation aligned with the priority areas of the Outlook,” he added.
Following the announcement of a new trilateral alliance with the US and the UK, Australia will get a submarine fleet, which will not be nuclear armed but only powered with nuclear reactors.
US President Joe Biden said Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines would ensure that they had “the most modern capabilities we need to maneuver and defend against rapidly evolving threats.”
France, meanwhile, expressed its “deep disappointment” after Australia withdrew from a multibillion-dollar deal to build French submarines.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in New York for UN meetings, called Monday for Europeans to “think hard” about alliances after Paris was outraged by the loss of a mega submarine contract with Australia.
“The first issue is the break of trust between allies,” he said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, calling for “Europeans to think hard.”
Le Drian has accused the United States of betrayal and Australia of back-stabbing, and has no separate meeting scheduled with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
He again denounced the “brutality of the announcement” made by US President Joe Biden on September 15 of a new strategic alliance with Australia and Britain, which scuppered the sale of French submarines to Canberra.