KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 12): Malaysia is hoping for a clear consensus among Southeast Asian nations on the new Indo-Pacific security partnership among Australia, the US and Britain, Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said on Tuesday.
The alliance known as AUKUS, announced last month, will see Australia acquiring technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines as part of an agreement intended to respond to growing Chinese power, especially in the strategically important South China Sea.
The plan has divided countries in Southeast Asia, with Indonesia and Malaysia warning that it could lead to an arms race among rival superpowers in the region, while the Philippines, a US defence ally, has backed the pact.
Hishammuddin told Parliament on Tuesday a meeting with his counterparts from ASEAN scheduled for next month will present an opportunity for the bloc to agree on a shared response to AUKUS.
"Our end game as always is to ensure the region's stability regardless of the balance of powers [between] the US and China," he said.
"An understanding at [the] ASEAN [level] will help us in facing these two major powers."
AUKUS is largely seen as a response by Western allies to avert a Chinese hegemony in Southeast Asia, particularly in the South China Sea, a conduit for a third of ship-borne trade over which Beijing claims historical sovereignty.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week summoned China's ambassador to Kuala Lumpur to protest the presence of Beijing's vessels in Malaysian waters.
China has said the AUKUS plan risks severely damaging regional peace and stability.
The US, however, said the alliance poses no threat to Indo-Pacific security and is not aimed at any one country.
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