The Philippines is backing a new defence partnership between the United States , Britain and Australia , hoping it can maintain the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region, a view that contrasts sharply with some of its neighbours. Known as Aukus, the alliance will see Australia get technology to deploy nuclear-powered submarines as part of the agreement intended to respond to growing Chinese power. “The enhancement of a near-abroad ally’s ability to project power should restore and keep the balance rather than destabilise it,” the Philippines’ foreign minister, Teodoro Locsin, said in a statement on Tuesday. Locsin’s remarks, dated Sunday, differ to the stance of Indonesia and Malaysia , which sounded the alarm about the nuclear powered submarines amid a burgeoning superpower rivalry in Southeast Asia . Locsin said that without an actual presence of nuclear weapons, the Aukus move would not violate a 1995 treaty to keep nuclear arms out of Southeast Asia. Australia looks to assuage Asean’s concerns over Aukus nuclear subs deal The South China Sea continues to be a source of tension, with the US – a defence treaty partner of the Philippines – and Western allies regularly conducting “freedom of navigation” operations that China has reacted angrily to. China sees such activities as outside interference in waters it claims as its own, in conflict with other coastal states, such as the Philippines and Vietnam , which have accused China of harassing fishermen and energy activities. A brief period of rapprochement is all but over this year, with the Philippines furious about the “threatening” presence of hundreds of Chinese “maritime militia” vessels inside its exclusive economic zone. “Proximity breeds brevity in response time; thereby enhancing an Asean near friend and ally’s military capacity to respond to a threat to the region or challenge the status quo,” Locsin added, without specifying the threat. “This requires enhancing Australia’s ability, added to that of its main military ally, to achieve that calibration.” Australia last week scrapped a deal with France ’s Naval Group to build a fleet of conventional submarines and will instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology under the Aukus pact. On Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would not speak with France’s president at the United Nations this week – even though French anger over the cancellation of the US$40 billion defence contract could threaten an Australian-EU trade deal. France has accused both Australia and the US of stabbing it in the back, and recalled its ambassadors from both Canberra and Washington. While US President Joe Biden has sought to speak to French President Emmanuel Macron to ease tensions, Morrison said he would not hold a separate bilateral meeting with the French leader. US allies’ move on nuclear subs for Australia a boost to region’s hard power: analysts “There is not an opportunity for that at this time. I’m sure that opportunity will come in time,” Morrison told reporters in New York when asked if he would speak to Macron on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. European Union countries expressed solidarity with France on Monday in a show of unity seen as threatening Australia’s bid for a free trade deal with the bloc. Australia and the EU are set to hold the next round of talks on a trade deal on October 12. Australian Minister for Trade Dan Tehan on Monday said he expected those talks to go ahead as scheduled despite the French disappointment. Morrison will meet Biden and European leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York before travelling to Washington for a meeting of the Quad group of countries – India, Japan , the United States and Australia – later this week.