2021/134 “Southeast Asian Responses to AUKUS: Arms Racing, Non-Proliferation and Regional Stability” by William Choong and Ian Storey – ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute


Articles & Commentaries > ISEAS Perspective > 2021


  • Southeast Asian responses to the Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) technology-sharing agreement, which aims to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, have varied considerably.
  • Malaysia and Indonesia have warned the agreement could trigger an arms race, undermine regional stability and weaken nuclear non-proliferation regimes.
  • The Philippines’ national-security establishment has welcomed AUKUS though President Duterte shares the concerns of Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • Singapore and Vietnam have been implicitly supportive of the tripartite pact while Thailand has remained silent.
  • Concerns over arms racing and nuclear proliferation are overblown. AUKUS is a response to China’s rapid military modernisation and assertive behaviour in the maritime domain. Australia’s acquisition of nuclear submarines will not violate non-proliferation treaties.
  • AUKUS is a wake-up call to ASEAN that it needs to be more proactive on security issues and cannot take its centrality for granted.

* William Choong and Ian Storey are Senior Fellows in the Regional Strategic and Political Studies Programme at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.

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