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Nov 18, 2019 / 10:59

ASEAN defense ministers concerned about regional security threats

The ministers said that legal infringements in the South China Sea will ruin trust and cause escalating tensions.

Defense ministers from Southeast Asian nations on Sunday [November 17] expressed concerns about regional issues, including the South China Sea, at an informal meeting within the 13th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Retreat and the sixth ADMM Plus that are taking place in Bangkok, Thailand on November 16-19.

 The 13th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Retreat in Bangkok, Thailand on November 16-19. Photo: Singapore Defense Ministry

The ADMM Retreat’s main topics would be a security cooperation within ASEAN and regional issues in their concerns, including the South China Sea disputes.

Before the retreat, the ASEAN defense ministers Sunday discussed with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghu in a meeting during which the South China Sea issue was raised, the Bangkok Post reported.

Malaysian Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu told reporters after the meeting that the South China Sea issue was discussed and ASEAN again asked all sides to respect the Code of Conduct.

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan who chaired the retreat said that security threats remain of great concern which no single country in the region could deal with.

The growing presence of big powers in the South China Sea has contributed to a challenging maritime landscape which could immensely affect the region, Malaysia’s Defense Minister Mohamad Sabu said.

Malaysia affirmed the South China Sea must remain free, open and commercially navigable without any concern of militarization or hostility, he said.

“Malaysia stands firm with its ASEAN colleagues to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC) including through confidence-building measures, initiatives and a common code of conduct in the maritime space to promote peace and stability,” he said at the ADMM Retreat.

In addition, regional countries also supported the ASEAN “Our Eye Initiative” – an information-sharing platform for member countries to facilitate the exchange of intelligence on terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism.

Meanwhile, Singaporean Defense Minister Hg Eng Hen voiced concern about the terrorism threat by the extremist groups that relocated to this region after their fall in the Middle East.

On Monday [November 18], the ASEAN defense ministers will meet with their counterparts from Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the US.

Vietnam's concerns 

 Vietnam’s Minister of Defense Ngo Xuan Lich at ADMM in Bangkok. Photo: VNA

Speaking at the event, Vietnam’s Minister of Defense Ngo Xuan Lich called for further solidarity among the regional members to better address internal and external problems thanks to bilateral and multilateral cooperation, according to local media.

ASEAN needs to be unanimous to promote its centrality and partnership with non-member states on the basis of mechanisms on ASEAN-led defense cooperation, Lich said.

Lich said that the region is facing traditional and non-traditional security threats, requiring countries in and outside the bloc to join hands in solving common challenges based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other laws.

Complying with international law must be put the first and foremost stance as the violations will ruin trust among countries and escalate tensions, resulting in serious impacts on smaller countries, the Vietnamese defense minister warned at the event with the participation of ASEAN General Secretary Lim Jock Hoi.