Sydney: Australian Prime Mister Malcom Turnbull assured the strengthening of cooperation with the ‘ASEAN’ by saying, ‘The ‘Australia-ASEAN Summit’ has endorsed the Australian commitment and all-weather friendship towards the ASEAN countries’. The ‘Australia-ASEAN summit’ was organised for the first time on Friday. The summit concluded on Sunday and according to the sources the main points of discussions, in the three days were said to be Cyber security, terrorism, trade, South China Sea and North Korea.
In 2016, an international court had ruled against China in the South China Sea case. China had started aggressive manoeuvres to increase its dominance in the South China Sea and the Asia-Pacific region ever since. Military deployment and financial strength are being used in the effort and United States has opened a strong front to stop China.
India, Japan and Australia are a part of this US-led front and they are taking steps to improve coordination with the ASEAN countries. Over the past few years, relations between Australia and China have strained and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has announced its active participation in the Indo-Pacific region. This meet with the ASEAN countries is a part of the same initiative.
The presence of the ASEAN Country Heads at the meet that started in the afternoon on Friday and the steps taken by Australia to increase cooperation with these countries, are impressive. There was a joint signing of an anti-terrorism Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Australia and ASEAN for cooperation to counter the rising influence of the IS and other terrorist groups. There are provisions for implementation of various joint measures against rising extremism and financing of the terrorist groups.
Australia and ASEAN members acknowledged the importance of cyber security from the regional security point of view, after the terrorism issue. At this time, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton pointed out that the ‘Dark Web’ is the new emerging danger and said that joint efforts are necessary to stop this. Australia and ASEAN have also signed an agreement on this point which includes the cyber intelligence and police force cooperation.
During the conference, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned the conflict in the South China Sea. If a conflict starts on the South China Sea issue, the ASEAN countries will be the most affected by it, warned Prime Minister Loong. The joint resolution published at the end of the conference, targets China for its militarisation of this region. The resolution underlines that the ASEAN countries will put more stress on not allowing militarisation of the South China Sea.
There was opposition expressed in the Australia-ASEAN conference to the protectionist environment in the trade sector. Along with this, an insistent stand was taken for cooperation between the ASEAN countries to maintain pressure on North Korea.