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Phl, Malaysia keep watch on ASEAN developments

The meeting came after Malaysia expressed concern that the new partnership among the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia could disrupt peace and stability in Southeast Asia.

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and his Malaysian counterpart, Minister Hishammuddin Hussein have discussed developments that concern the region via video teleconference, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Friday.

Lorenzana and Hishammuddin exchanged views on, among others, developments concerning the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and “new partnerships,” the DND said.

They also exchanged views on nuclear proliferation, a possible spill-over of the situation in Afghanistan, and the fight against Covid-19, it said.

The meeting came after Malaysia expressed concern that the new partnership among the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia could disrupt peace and stability in Southeast Asia.

Hishammuddin himself was recently quoted by Malaysian media as saying that the trilateral pact, now commonly called AUKUS, could provoke “other powers” to act more aggressively, especially in the South China Sea.

The pact focuses on security for the Indo-Pacific and includes giving Australia access to US technology to build nuclear-powered submarines.

In early September, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. welcomed the AUKUS, saying it would help maintain peace and security in Southeast Asia.

President Rodrigo Duterte later expressed concern about a regional nuclear arms race and said he would come up with a clear position after consulting the Cabinet, according to his spokesperson Harry Roque.

Lorenzana had also been informed of the AUKUS by his Australian counterpart, Peter Dutton. He acknowledged Australia’s right to improve its submarine defense capability.

During their meeting, Lorenzana and Hishammuddin also reaffirmed commitment to the implementation of their countries’ 1994 memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation, and acknowledged the “significant” progress achieved since its signing, the DND said.

The officials expressed optimism that defense relations between the Philippines and Malaysia, as well as their trilateral cooperation with Indonesia, will continue to develop in the coming years.

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