President Joko Widodo conveyed concerns about the development of nuclear-powered submarines by Australia and the existence of the US-Australia-British bloc – known as AUKUS – which was feared to trigger rivalry in the Southeast Asian region. Although it took place virtually, this was the first high-level meeting attended by all the country’s leaders since the outbreak of the corona virus pandemic in the middle of last year.
In a virtual press conference, Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi repeated President Jokowi’s statement that he understands that there are very high dynamics in the region that have the potential to threaten stability.
“Therefore, Indonesia hopes that Australia can continue its openness to ASEAN and become one of ASEAN’s partners in creating peace stability and prosperity in the Indo Pacific region,” said Retno.
Jokowi called on ASEAN and Australia to continue to build mutual trust in order to contribute to maintaining stability and peace in the region. “We must be able to build culture of conflict Becomes culture of peace, trust deficit Becomes strategic trust,” said the excerpt of the president’s statement in the written statement received FLY.
The president further underlined ASEAN’s success in surviving more than half a century and continuing to contribute to regional stability, peace and prosperity. This is because ASEAN believes in the power of cooperation and dialogue to overcome differences, he stressed.
President Jokowi, added Retno, also said that Indonesia did not want the Indo-Pacific region to become an arms race and power projection that could threaten regional stability. Indonesia wants to encourage all parties in the region to change the culture of conflict into a culture of dialogue.
Jokowi supports increasing the status of ASEAN-Australia cooperation in a comprehensive strategic partnership.
Australia Respects Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
On that occasion, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison highlighted health issues, the commitment to strengthening cooperation in handling the COVID-19 pandemic between Australia and ASEAN, including cooperation in developing vaccines and medical devices. Morrison emphasized the need for cooperation in sharing doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is a priority for the kangaroo nation.
On the future of the ASEAN-Australia partnership, Morrison announced a new initiative called Australia’s Future Initiative for ASEAN with $124 million in funding. Retno said the projects to be financed by the fund would be discussed jointly by both parties.
Regarding peace stability in the Indo Pacific region, according to Retno, Morrison reaffirmed Australia’s respect for the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) and provided support for ASEAN’s centrality and ASEAN Vision in the Indo Pacific.
Jokowi’s Statement Voices the Concerns of Many Parties
International security researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Nanto Sriyanto assessed that Jokowi’s statement regarding Australia’s plan to develop a nuclear-powered submarine was a fairly straightforward comment.
“Because we are really afraid that this area will become a power competition, there are many parties. We don’t want the development of this area to be dominated by narratives of mere security politics, especially the military,” said Nanto.
Nanto added that Jokowi’s speech conveyed the importance of developing mutual trust between ASEAN and Australia. ASEAN needs to strengthen the role of the ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum) to build mutual trust between ASEAN and its partners in other regions, including Australia.
Nanto acknowledged that Australia’s plan to develop ships as long as they were nuclear-powered was a challenge to ZOPFAN (a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia). [fw/em]