CANBERRA, Nov. 26 (Xinhuanet) -- Australian Prime Minister John Howard said
on Friday that Australia is unlikely to sign a non-aggression treaty with the
members of the Association of SoutheastAsian Nations (ASEAN).
Howard showed his reluctance to join the Treaty of Amity and
Cooperation (TAC) just days before flying to Laos, which will hostthe ASEAN
leaders' summit next week.
He will be the first Australian prime minister to attend the summit, which
will launch the negotiations between Australia, New Zealand and the 10 ASEAN
nations for a free trade deal.
"It's the sort of agreement that countries with perhaps a history coming
out of the non-aligned movement would have signed, whereas a country such as
Australia that has a different traditionand a different history would not
normally have embraced treaties of this kind," Howard told Melbourne radio 3AW.
"It is not the sort of treaty that we being a non-ASEAN countrywould
normally sign," he said.
"We are more interested in the substance of our relationship with the
countries in the ASEAN region," he said.
A number of other regional powers, including China, India, Pakistan and
Japan, have signed the pact, which is thought to be crucial for closer
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia hadhistorically
been reluctant to sign the pact because it prevented governments from speaking
out about human rights abuses.
Australia's opposition Labor Party said the government's refusal to sign
the treaty threatened Australia's regional political, economic and security