Australia, Asean future interlinked, says Penny Wong

Australia’s foreign minister Penny Wong speaking at a joint press conference with her Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah. (Bernama pic)

PUTRAJAYA: Southeast Asia will remain an important region to Australia, says the country’s foreign minister Penny Wong, who also emphasised the new Australian government’s commitment to Asean centrality.

Wong, who is currently on a three-day official visit to Malaysia, said on Tuesday that Australia’s future is interlinked with both Asean and Southeast Asia’s future.

“We share the same future because we share the same region, and that is how we will approach relationships and many of the challenges we face,” she said.The Australian government remains committed to Asean centrality and we see Asean as the centre of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous region in which sovereignty is respected,” she told a joint news conference held alongside foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah after a bilateral meeting at the latter’s office here.

Wong said Australia is also privileged and honoured to be a comprehensive strategic partner of Asean, adding that during her visit to Jakarta with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese early this month, she had the opportunity to meet with the Asean secretary-general and other permanent representatives to discuss the way forward in building on the strong partnership.

Australia and Asean joined the comprehensive strategic partnership arrangement in October 2021.

On the trilateral security pact between Australia, United Kingdom and the United States, better known through the acronym Aukus, Wong said under the agreement, the Australian government intends to replace the existing diesel-powered submarines with nuclear-propelled submarines.

“We are talking about nuclear propulsion, not nuclear weapons,” she said.

Elaborating further, Wong said the new Australian government is also taking time to listen to and address the concerns of various parties on the matter.

Aukus, which was announced in September last year, had  caused major security concerns among states in the region amid fears it would further raise tensions.

Wong, who was born in Malaysia before moving to Australia as a young girl, described her visit here as special.

As part of her itinerary, Wong is also scheduled to meet with international trade and industry minister Azmin Ali and defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein before flying to Kota Kinabalu on Wednesday where she will meet with several state leaders.

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