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Dec 10, 2020 / 10:21

ASEAN vows closer cooperation to geopolitical and geostrategic shifts

Member states acknowledge the importance of practical cooperation mechanism for ADMM-Plus.

ASEAN member states have agreed to intensify efforts to promote a cohesive and responsive bloc in adapting to geopolitical and geostrategic shifts through strengthening defence cooperation amongst ASEAN member states.

Vietnam’s Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich at the meeting. Photo: Nguyen Thang/Tienphong 

The consensus was reached in the Joint Declaration of the ASEAN Defense Ministers at the 14th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) held via a video conference chaired by Vietnam’s Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich on December 9.

Consensus for peace and security

ASEAN member states reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea (called Eat Sea by Vietnam) as well as the need to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes affect peace and stability.

They demanded efforts to pursue peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.

The nations emphasized the need to maintain and promote an environment conducive to the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, while underlining the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of the Parties in the Eat Sea.

The regional countries highlighted their support of cross-pillar and cross-sectoral activities with a view to advancing cooperation amongst the three pillars of the ASEAN Community, including Political-Security Community, Economic Community, and Socio-Cultural Community.

These pillars will be provided with a conducive security environment for sustainability in all dimensions, including sustainable regional connectivity through improving sea, land, air and people-to-people connectivity.

 Vietnam's Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich (7th left), deputy defense minister Nguyen Chi Vinh (6th left) and defense attaches of ASEAN member states. Photo: Vietnam News Agency

Promoting ADMM-Plus

ASEAN army leaders said that they will also enhance cooperation with the Plus Countries to tackle traditional and non-traditional security challenges, while upholding the principles of ASEAN Centrality.

They said they will respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, consensus-based decision making, as well as being flexible and voluntary, and non-binding contributions with assets remaining under national command and control.

They acknowledged the important role of ADMM-Plus as the highest ministerial defence and security consultation for the ASEAN member states and the Plus Countries. At the same time, they will promote practical cooperation mechanism through its Experts Working Groups (EWGs); and the interest of ASEAN's friends and Dialogue Partners to contribute to regional security and stability.

The member states commended the progress of ADMM-Plus since the inaugural meeting in Hanoi in 2010, including the annualization of ADMM-Plus and the expansion of the number of EWGs from five to seven.

They welcomed the new co-chairs of the ADMM-Plus EWGs for the 2021-23 cycle and the adoption of their new respective Work Plans.

Common efforts ahead

At the 14th ADMM, the bloc adopted the ADMM Three-Year Work Program 2020-22 to outline the future direction of ADMM cooperation while building on the previous ADMM Work Programs, particularly the 2017-19 period.

The regional countries approved the Standard Operating Procedure of ASEAN Militaries Ready Group on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (SOP AMRG on HADR), which provides guiding principles, standard procedures, concept of operations, and fundamental requirements and protocols for AMRG on HADR in utilizing military assets and capabilities in assisting affected countries in the region.

They adopted the Concept Paper on the ASEAN Flag to be Displayed next to the National Flag at the Compound of ASEAN Member State's Military Units Participating in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, to foster the spirit of solidarity in ASEAN Community in general and among ASEAN defense forces in particular, affirming ASEAN's cohesion, development and consensus for the noble purpose of maintaining peace and stability throughout the world.