Duterte: AUKUS security pact must complement, not complicate regional cooperation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 27)— Security agreements — including the trilateral AUKUS deal — should complement, not complicate, the cooperation of nations in the Southeast Asian region, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday.

Duterte raised the topic during the 9th ASEAN-United States Summit, where US President Joe Biden was also in attendance.

"Arrangements such as the AUKUS trilateral security partnership add a new element to consider within the region," Duterte said in his speech.

"We take full account of statements that AUKUS will promote peace and stability in our region and maintain support for ASEAN centrality. But one thing should be clear for all stakeholders: ASEAN's central role in the evolving regional security architecture must be strengthened. And that this or other arrangements must complement and not complicate our working methods for cooperation," he added.

The AUKUS pact — inked by Australia, the US, and the United Kingdom — aims to strengthen peace, security, and defense cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Initiatives include "deeper information and technology sharing" among partners, according to the White House. The deal will also see the US and UK support Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.

READ: Biden and UK to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines in new pushback on China

Last month, Malacañang said Duterte had expressed concern over the "nuclear arms race." At the time, his spokesperson Harry Roque said the matter would be discussed in their Cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile, Duterte also thanked the US for working with the ASEAN on maritime security and awareness issues. He specifically highlighted America's "strong support" for the 2016 arbitral award on the South China Sea case, which was ruled in favor of the Philippines.

The chief executive likewise reiterated his call for all stakeholders in the South China Sea to "exercise self-restraint to avoid untoward incidents" in the disputed area.