Philippines, Vietnam form joint commission in move to strengthen defence ties

MANILA - The Philippines and Vietnam have agreed to form a "joint commission" to map out a "strategic partnership" they announced in May, as the two countries forge even closer defence ties amid an increasingly assertive China pressing claims in the South China Sea.

Manila is also seeking to deepen ties with Myanmar, a Beijing ally, with a "memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation", the government announced.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Philippines said its foreign secretary Albert del Rosario and his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh agreed during a meeting in Hanoi "to advance partnership to a higher level".

That includes the creation of a "joint commission" to be led by the foreign ministers of the Philippines and Vietnam.

During the World Economic Forum held in Manila in May, the Philippines and Vietnam agreed to forge a "roadmap" to a "strategic defence alliance", as they expressed "deep concerns" over recent actions by China that have "seriously threatened peace" in the region.

The Philippine and Vietnamese navies are already holding "staff-to-staff talks to discuss possible exchanges in intelligence and naval technology", the statement said.

China's growing assertiveness in claiming 90 per cent of the South China Sea has drawn the Philippines and Vietnam, formerly on opposite sides during the Cold War, closer.

Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, meanwhile, announced that he and Myanmar Defence Services commander-in-chief Min Aug Hlaning have agreed to work on a "memorandum of understanding (MOU) to promote defence cooperation between our two countries".

"The MOU will enable us to cooperate in various fields, such as defence dialogues, education and training exchanges, among others," said Mr Gazmin.

rdancel@sph.com.sg

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