SUBANG, Malaysia - A hotline has been set up for Asean defence ministers to promote rapid response cooperation in times of emergency, Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Tuesday (Nov 3) after the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) Retreat.
The ministers witnessed a signing ceremony for the Direct Communication Link (DCL) initiative, Mr Hishammuddin told a press conference according to Xinhua news agency.
Singapore's defence minister Ng Eng Hen said of the hotline: "Just like people, countries need to build relationships and links to build trust and avoid misunderstandings...How do Governments of different countries do this?
"We are now a phone call away from each other. This hotline will reduce the risk of incidents at sea," Dr Ng said in a Facebook post.
The regional defence meeting took place a week after a US warship challenged territorial limits around one of Beijing's man-made islands in the South China Sea's Spratly archipelago with a so-called freedom-of-navigation patrol.
That prompted China's naval chief to warn that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if the United States did not stop its "provocative acts".
Asean defence ministers will meet with counterparts from countries including the US, China and Japan on Wednesday on a platform to promote regional peace and stability.
Asean face pressure to back China on the South China Sea issue, while the US and Japan are pushing to get concerns about the dispute included in a statement to be issued after regional defence talks.