Philippines Backs Australia’s Nuclear Sub-Strategy to Counter China

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Philippines Backs Australia's Nuclear Sub-Strategy to Counter China
Filipino soldiers stand at attention near a Philippine flag at Thitu island in disputed South China Sea on April 21, 2017. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) —The Philippines is supporting a new defense partnership between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia in the hope of maintaining the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region, a viewpoint that contrasts sharply with that of some of its neighbors.

The alliance, known as AUKUS, will provide Australia with technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines as part of an agreement designed to counter the Chinese regime’s growing influence.

“Improving a close ally’s ability to project power should restore and maintain the balance rather than destabilize it,” Philippines Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Locsin’s remarks contrast with the positions of Indonesia and Malaysia, which have raised concerns about nuclear submarines amid a growing superpower rivalry in Southeast Asia.

Locsin stated that the AUKUS move would not violate a 1995 treaty prohibiting the presence of nuclear weapons in Southeast Asia.

The South China Sea remains a source of contention, with the US—a defense treaty partner of the Philippines—and Western allies regularly conducting “freedom of navigation” operations that have enraged the Chinese regime.

The Chinese regime regards them as outside interference in waters it claims as its own, putting it at odds with other coastal states such as the Philippines and Vietnam, which have accused the Chinese regime of harassing fishermen and energy activities.

A brief period of détente has come to an end this year, with the Philippines enraged by the “threatening” presence of hundreds of Chinese “maritime militia” within its exclusive economic zone.

“Proximity breeds brevity in response time, enhancing an ASEAN near friend and ally’s military capacity to respond to a threat to the region or challenge the status quo,” Locsin added, without elaborating on the threat.

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