Australia, UK pledge to enhance maritime security in Indo-Pacific

During a virtual meeting between the leaders of United Kingdom and Australia on February 16, the prime minister of the UK committed £25 million (US$34 million) to strengthen regional resilience in areas including cyberspace, state threats and maritime security in Indo-Pacific.

The leaders reiterated their commitment to support a rules-based international order free from coercion, where the sovereign rights of all nations are respected and disputes are settled peacefully and in accordance with international law.

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to working with ASEAN and other partners in the region to ensure their countries’ support meets the region’s needs.  Cooperation included the establishment of the ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, ASEAN’s first, and the UK’s status as an official ASEAN Dialogue Partner. Both leaders reiterated their countries’ strong support for ASEAN centrality, ASEAN-led regional architecture and ASEAN’s outlook on the Indo-Pacific. 

Additionally, both prime ministers further underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and expressed support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations, as a member where statehood is not a prerequisite and as an observer or guest where it is.

Freedom of navigation and rule of law

The prime ministers recognized the importance of countries being able to exercise their maritime rights and freedoms in the South China Sea consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They reiterated their strong opposition to any unilateral actions that could escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order, including militarization, coercion, and intimidation.

They recalled the excellent collaboration between the Australian and UK navies, in particular during the UK’s Carrier Strike Group deployment to the Indo-Pacific. They committed to increased joint naval activity in the Indo Pacific: the UK has deployed two Offshore Patrol Vessels to the Indo-Pacific on an enduring basis.

The Prime Ministers committed to build societal awareness and resilience to foreign interference and strengthen collective toolkits to detect, disrupt and deter current and future hostile activity by state actors, including the use of misinformation and disinformation. 

They noted that the Five Power Defense Arrangements (FPDA) were an important pillar for regional security, and committed to maintain strong cooperation with FPDA partners.

Prime Minister Morrison welcomed the UK’s Indo-Pacific Tilt and both made clear their long-term commitment to the region. 

AUKUS

Prime Minister Johnson and Prime Minister Morrison reaffirmed the commitment of Australia and the United Kingdom to AUKUS, working alongside the United States, as a cornerstone of their shared efforts to promote an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific. 

Since AUKUS was announced in September 2021, all three partners have made significant progress in their collective endeavor to provide the Royal Australian Navy with a conventional-armed nuclear-powered submarine capability at the earliest possible date.

The leaders welcomed the entry into force of the Exchange of Naval Nuclear Propulsion Information Agreement (ENNPIA) on 8 February 2022, making it possible for the United Kingdom and the United States to share naval nuclear propulsion information with Australia. 

Image credit: iStock/ Somkhane Sawatdinak

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