Defense-security cooperation among ASEAN nations in 2018
Defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered for a retreat in Singapore from 5 to 7 February to discuss key security issues and defense collaboration among 10 member states for 2018.
The ASEAN defense ministers’ meeting (ADMM) retreat hosted by Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, focused on three “Cs”: counter-terrorism; collaboration in response to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons (CBRN); and a Code for Unplanned Encounters at sea (CUES).
Counter-terrorism is identified as the most serious security threat to the bloc which will militate against the ASEAN’s progress and prosperity. In a joint statement, the ministers noted their great concern for the rise of terrorism and its complexity.
As such, the defense ministers agreed to step up their cooperation in the three “R” areas of “Resilience, Response, Recovery” to improve ASEAN’s capacity against terrorist attacks.
The 10 ASEAN defense ministers, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (sixth from left) and Secretary-General of ASEAN Dato Lim Jock Hoi (first from right) (Photo: Ministry of Defence Singapore)
On the issue of CBRN collaboration, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have suffered serious consequences of chemical weapons used during wartime for the past five decades. Vietnam is willing to share its experience in preventing and treating toxic chemicals, said Vietnamese Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh.
Regarding the importance of CUES, the ministers commended the strong collaboration with the eight plus countries under the ambit of the ADMM-Plus. Among them, China is considered an indispensable partner to stability and progress in the Asia-Pacific region, said Dr Ng at an informal meeting between ADMM and Chinese Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan.
The ASEAN defense ministers meeting with Chinese Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan (Photo: Ministry of Defence Singapore)
Four member states – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – and China have overlapping claims in the waterway. The CUES code, established in 2014, has been used to manage such unplanned encounters at sea.
In addition, Dr Ng proposed a need for a similar set of protocols for aircrafts. This reached a strong consensus on stepping up to work toward a code for such encounters in the air, aimed to get an agreement by October 2018, when the formal ADMM and ADMM-Plus meetings will be held.
Singapore – chair country of 2018 ASEAN – is not a claimant state, and also do not want to get involved in what belongs to whom, said Dr Ng. Singapore’s purpose is to set solid platforms and institutions that can promote mutual trust and confidence, and reduce risks of any mishap or miscalculation in the region, both on the sea and in the air.
 ADMM-Plus: ASEAN defense ministers and its eight dialogue partners (Australia, India, China, Japan, Korea, the US, Russia, and New Zealand)
By MSEAP Cyber Secretariat (firstname.lastname@example.org)