Aussies pledge A$126mil support for Asean, seeks upgrade in ties

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a A$124mil (RM386mil) package supporting cooperation with Asean on security, climate and health efforts, as Canberra pushes for ties with the regional bloc to be upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Speaking on the second of three days of virtual meetings between Asean leaders and those of their key partners from the region, Morrison added that the growth of Asean’s 10 member states underpins regional stability and Australia’s prosperity.

He told his counterparts at the Asean-Australia Summit that a comprehensive strategic partnership between both parties would be “more than just a label”.

“We want our cooperation to reach new heights,” Morrison added. “We will back it with substance that positions our partnership to address complex challenges.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore agrees in principle with Australia’s proposal to elevate relations with Asean, and encourages continued discussions.

Lee added that he is grateful for Australia’s steadfast commitment to post-pandemic recovery efforts in the region, through its Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative and Partnerships for Recovery policy.

Morrison said Australia has shared almost four million vaccine doses with the region and expects to share another 10 million at least by the middle of next year.

Lee also said both sides could work to leverage opportunities in a growing global digital economy, noting that Australia has strongly supported the Asean Smart Cities Network through its own Smart Cities Initiative and Smart Cities Trust Fund.

They should also uphold Asean centrality, he added, saying: “Asean and Australia share similar strategic regional outlooks”.

Morrison also assured his Asean counterparts that the new three-way security partnership between his country, Britain and the United States, known as Aukus, does not change Canberra’s commitment to the region or to nuclear non-proliferation. — The Straits Times/ANN

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