Southeast Asian defence pact helps 'balance' region, members say

June 3, 2023 1:36 AM EDT

FILE PHOTO-New Zealand's Defence Minister Andrew Little poses for a picture in Wellington, New Zealand, March 30, 2023. REUTERS/Lucy Craymer

By Chen Lin

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Top officials from Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Britain said on Saturday that their 52-year-old Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) pact helped keep things in balance amid regional tensions.

"The longstanding FPDA... always been an important part of ensuring signalling collective defence in this region," New Zealand defence minister Andrew Little said at a media briefing on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

As the tensions between the United States and China persist, the longstanding relationships among smaller nations are "what keep things in balance", Little said.

"I'm comfortable continuing to keep things in balance as different countries including the major powers work out how the relationships are working," he added.

Singaporean Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles, Malaysian Defence Minister Seri Mohamad Hasan, Little, and British defence minister Ben Wallace discussed the importance of the FPDA as a constructive and peaceful arrangement.

The ministers also talked about collaborating in unconventional ways in the face of contemporary security challenges.

"We are five countries who are deeply committed to a rules based order and promoting peace within our region," Marles said.

Increased regional involvement by nations in and outside Asia has been a recurring theme at the security meetings, with comments on the subject from Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday night, and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin echoing the sentiments in a speech the next morning.

(Reporting by Chen Lin. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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