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Duterte fears arms race in AUKUS

Michael Punongbayan, Pia Lee-Brago, Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte fears arms race in AUKUS
Early this month, the three countries forged the AUKUS, an enhanced trilateral security partnership that they said would strengthen their ability to support their security and defense interests and promote “deeper information and technology sharing.”
Presidential photo / Ace Morandante

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has expressed concern about a “regional nuclear arms race” days after the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia signed a security partnership allowing Canberra to acquire a nuclear-powered submarine technology, Malacañang said yesterday.

Early this month, the three countries forged the AUKUS, an enhanced trilateral security partnership that they said would strengthen their ability to support their security and defense interests and promote “deeper information and technology sharing.”

The first initiative under the AUKUS is to support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.

The three countries also vowed to seek an “optimal pathway” to deliver at least eight nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.

Southeast Asian countries Malaysia and Indonesia expressed concern that the partnership might pave the way to an arms race.

Foreign affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. is supportive of the AUKUS, saying “the enhancement of a near abroad ally’s ability to project power should restore and keep the balance rather than destabilize it.”

“He said this will be discussed in a full Cabinet meeting, although he expressed concern about a regional nuclear arms race,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said, referring to Duterte.

On Monday, Roque said the Philippines wants to make sure the AUKUS would not violate the Constitution and the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty, a 1995 agreement that aims to preserve the region as a nuclear weapon-free zone.

In a recent statement, Locsin said without the actual presence of nuclear weapons, the Philippines cannot infer violation of the treaty.

US envoy welcomed

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana yesterday officially welcomed US Chargé d’Affaires Heather Variava to the country.

The meeting reaffirmed the country’s commitment to the Philippines-US alliance through the Mutual Defense Treaty.

PRESIDENT DUTERTE
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