Asean must step up on security: Ng Eng Hen

KUALA LUMPUR • Asean countries must continue cooperating to deal with pressing threats such as terrorism and chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) weapons, Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said at the 5th Putrajaya Forum yesterday.

"Asean will have to step up to address the security challenges in our region (because) it is to our intimate interest to do so," he said, calling the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM)-Plus a key platform. "We must redouble efforts to build its resilience to enhance its relevance."

He flagged three areas of focus for ADMM-Plus, chaired by Singapore this year. One, boost counter-terrorism cooperation through tapping militaries' niche capabilities.

Two, strengthen regional capability against CBR threats.

Three, establish practical confidence-building measures and codes for unplanned encounters in the air as well as at sea, to reduce the risk of miscalculations and de-escalate tensions.

Trade disputes have historically precipitated armed conflicts, he said. And strategic rivalry for trade and security may impact small nations like Singapore and Malaysia that will be in the uncomfortable position of having to choose sides.

He added that most institutions promoting collaboration to reduce confrontation in the region are "relatively few and young", and will "need time to address the structural weakness in our regional security architecture".

Dr Ng also met his Malaysian counterpart Hishammuddin Hussein, and Singapore's Defence Ministry said they noted the good progress made in bilateral ties.

It added: "The ministers agreed to enhance the defence relationship through more military interactions at all levels. They also discussed regional security issues, and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen practical cooperation through multilateral fora."

Trinna Leong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 17, 2018, with the headline 'Asean must step up on security: Ng Eng Hen'. Print Edition | Subscribe