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HomeGeopolitical CompassEast AsiaAUKUS: A reflection of ASEAN’s inability to cope with China’s rising assertiveness?

AUKUS: A reflection of ASEAN’s inability to cope with China’s rising assertiveness?

Authors: William Choong & Ian Storey

Affiliation: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

Organization/Publisher: ThinkChina

Date/Place: October 20, 2021/Singapore

Type of Literature: Article 

Word Count: 3137


Keywords: AUKUS, ASEAN, China, USA


The trilateral agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, called “AUKUS”, was claimed to deepen diplomatic and security defense in the Indo-Pacific and to meet the “challenges of the 21st century”. This agreement, like other US-led initiatives in the region such as the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) and the Quadrilateral Security Grouping (the Quad) is meant to challenge Chinese military assertiveness and the imbalance of power in the region. The main concern of this agreement is that Australia will be provided with nuclear-powered submarines, which China has warned would trigger an arms race and undermine regional peace, stability, and nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Meanwhile, ASEAN members’ responses have varied. Malaysia and Indonesia stated their concerns about arms racing. On the other hand, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines are accepting of the agreement. Thailand has remained silent. The author argues that this agreement also underscores the ASEAN’s inability to overcome new changes in the geopolitical environment. Consequently, ASEAN has to now overcome two challenges: First, how to manage the two contesting blocs in the region for maintaining the balance of power; Second, how to unite and maintain relationships with its members in such fracture caused by two big power rivalries in the region.


By: Salman Nugraha, CIGA Research Intern



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