Indonesia ‘deeply concerned’ by arms race and power projection in region after Australian nuclear sub deal

Indonesia’s foreign ministry has said it is concerned about the sale of US and UK nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, claiming it is contributing to an arms race and increasing power projection in the Indo-Pacific.

In a statement on Friday, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said it was watching “with caution” a deal which sees the UK and US sell nuclear-powered submarines to neighboring Australia, making it the seventh nation with an underwater nuclear fleet.

“Indonesia is very concerned about the continued arms race and projection of military power in the region,” the statement reads, adding that Jakarta wanted to emphasize the importance of Australia adhering to its commitment to nuclear nonproliferation.

The foreign ministry encourages Australia to fulfill its obligations to “maintain peace, stability and security” in the Indo-Pacific region in accordance with the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation – a peace pact signed by Southeast Asian nations. 

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In the final of five points, Jakarta calls on Canberra not to renege on dialogue with regional partners following the creation of the AUKUS pact, a strategically significant deal which increases security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific between Canberra, London and Washington. It is the AUKUS (Australia, UK & US) pact that sees Australia receive the nuclear submarines.

Speaking on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told ABC radio that Indonesia’s defense and foreign ministers were informed of the plan, and that he intended to speak with President Joko Widodo soon.

The AUKUS pact, announced on Wednesday night by the leaders of the three nations, comes at the expense of France and the Naval Group whose 2016 agreement with Canberra, for the delivery of a diesel sub fleet, has now been cancelled.

Morrison has cited a changing strategic environment as the reason for ditching the French diesel subs in favor of the nuclear-powered, conventionally armed vessels. Canberra has been increasingly at odds with China over the past two years. The move is largely seen as an effort to counter the perceived China threat.

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