While US allies in India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have all been mainly mute on the announcement, the strategic tremors of the nuclear deal will be most acutely felt in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea. Already, the region appears to be splitting into pro and con camps. Indonesia and Malaysia have openly criticized the deal, portraying it as a potentially destabilizing development that rekindles age-old resentment of Australia acting as America’s “deputy sheriff” in the region.
Singapore and Vietnam, two countries with rising concerns about Chinese expansionism, quietly welcomed the deal without issuing any formal statements. The Philippines, a US treaty ally, stood out by openly backing the deal as a necessary “enhancement of a near-abroad ally’s ability to project power.”
The AUKUS deal, which is purportedly consistent with regional principles on nuclear non-proliferation, is expected to be discussed in the forthcoming high-level meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including a scheduled annual summit in November.