To confront China, the Philippines backs Australia’s nuclear sub-pact

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The Philippines is supporting a new defense alliance between the United States, Britain, and Australia in the hopes of maintaining the Indo-Pacific region’s power balance. This viewpoint differs starkly from that of some of its neighbors. The Aukus alliance will provide Australia with the technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines as part of a deal countering China’s increasing might.
“Improving the capabilities of a close partner to project strength should restore and maintain the balance, not destabilize it,” Philippines Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin said in a statement on Tuesday (September 21).
Locsin’s comments, made on September 19, contrast with the positions of Indonesia and Malaysia, which have raised concerns about nuclear submarines amid a rising superpower competition in Southeast Asia.
According to Locsin, the Aukus relocation would not violate a 1995 treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons from entering Southeast Asia if there were no real nuclear weapons there.
The South China Sea remains tense, with the US – a defense treaty ally of the Philippines – and Western allies frequently undertaking “freedom of navigation” operations, to which China has reacted fiercely. Other coastal states, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, have accused China of harassing fishers and energy activities in waters it claims as its own.
The Philippines is outraged over the “threatening” presence of hundreds of Chinese “maritime militia” vessels inside its exclusive economic zone, and a brief period of rapprochement is all but gone this year.
“Proximity fosters shortness in reaction time,” Locsin continued, without elaborating on the threat.

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