The Malaysian government’s stand on Aukus is clear as it views the regional security pact between Australia, the UK and US as having the potential to undermine peace and stability in Southeast Asia, according to defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
“It could also provoke other powers to act more aggressively in this region, particularly the South China Sea,” the Senior Minister (Security) said during Ministerial Question Time in Parliament on October 12.
He was responding to Mohammad Nizar Zakaria, a Barisan Nasional member of parliament for Parit constituency, who asked about the stance of the defence ministry towards the controversial Aukus pact.
Hishammuddin said he had recently met with Australia’s special envoy Vice-Admiral David Johnston and defence minister Peter Dutton.
“In both discussions, I stressed that Malaysia does not want to be dragged into the geopolitics of superpowers,” he said.
Hishammuddin said that during his meetings with Johnston and Dutton, he informed his foreign counterparts that special approval must be obtained from the Malaysian government if Australia intends to enter Malaysian waters, dock at Malaysian ports, or conduct joint-military exercises.
“A special agreement must first be obtained and it will be considered on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
The minister said the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) retreat next month would be an important platform to strengthen regional defence cooperation in light of the Aukus pact.
The ADMM retreat, which will be held in Brunei, will be deliberating on the stance of ASEAN countries towards Aukus.
“In fact, I’m sure this issue will also be discussed there, which will help to strengthen understanding among ASEAN countries over the Aukus pact,” he added.
Hishammuddin said he would also be calling Cambodian Minister of National Defence Tea Banh and his Philippine counterpart Delfin Lorenzana.
“I hope what was bilaterally formed between Malaysia with Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States will help us find ways to balance global superpowers in the region,” he said, adding that the Aukus pact must be collectively addressed by ASEAN countries as a 10-country bloc.
Aukus is a trilateral security agreement for the Indo-Pacific region that was announced on September 15.
THE STAR (MALAYSIA)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK