Asean defence meeting retreat to discuss regional stance over Aukus, says Hisham

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. - Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: The upcoming Asean Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) retreat next month will be an important platform to strengthen regional defence cooperation in light of the controversial trilateral security pact between Australia, United Kingdom and the United States (Aukus).

Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the ADMM retreat, which will be held in Brunei next month, will be deliberating the stance of Asean countries towards the Aukus pact.

"The ADMM retreat will be an important platform to discuss efforts in strengthening defence cooperation at a regional level.

"In fact, I'm sure that Aukus will also be discussed there, which will also strengthen understanding among Asean countries over the Aukus pact," he said during Ministerial Question Time in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 12).

Hishammuddin also said he will contact Cambodia's deputy prime minister Tea Banh and the Philippines' secretary of defence Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday (Oct 13).

"I hope what was bilaterally formed between Malaysia and those countries will help us in finding ways to balance global superpowers in our region," he added.

Hishammuddin said the Aukus pact must be collectively addressed by Asean countries as a 10-country bloc.

He was responding to Datuk Mohd Nizar Zakaria (BN-Parit), who asked Hishammuddin regarding the stance of the Defence Ministry towards the controversial Aukus pact.

Meanwhile, Hishammuddin said the government's stand on Aukus is clear, that it viewed the regional security pact between Australia, UK and the US as having the potential to undermine peace and stability in South-East Asia.

"It could also provoke other powers to act more aggressively in this region, particularly the South China Sea," he added.

Hishammuddin also said he had recently met with Australia's Special Envoy Vice Admiral David Johnston and Defence Minister Peter Dutton.

"In both discussions, I have stressed that Malaysia does not want to be dragged into the geo-politics of super-powers," he added.

Hishammuddin said during his meetings with Johnston and Dutton, he had stressed that a special approval must be obtained from the Malaysian government if Australia intends to enter Malaysian waters, to dock at Malaysian ports, or to conduct joint-military exercises.

"A special agreement from the Malaysian government must be first obtained and it will be considered on a case-by-case basis" he added.

Aukus is the trilateral security agreement involving Australia, UK and the US, which was announced on Sept 15 for the Indo-Pacific region.

Under the pact, the US and UK will help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

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