Asean defence ministers yesterday pledged to work together to support public health efforts, and to strengthen defence cooperation with such partners as China and the United States amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
At the 14th Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) - the first to take place virtually - the ministers expressed support for the continued defence cooperation among Asean members, especially amid the pandemic, said Singapore's Defence Ministry (Mindef).
The Asean ministers also virtually met Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and US Acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller in separate informal meetings, Mindef added in a statement.
At the annual meeting, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and the other ministers signed a joint declaration which, among other things, reaffirmed the importance of the ADMM and ADMM-Plus as key platforms to promote strategic dialogue and practical cooperation.
The ADMM-Plus includes eight other countries which are dialogue partners of Asean - namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
The Asean ministers also exchanged views on the impact of Covid-19 on the region in the past year, said Mindef.
They reaffirmed their commitment to working closely together to support public health efforts, as well as maintaining the momentum of bilateral and multilateral cooperation initiatives amid the pandemic.
The declaration also commended the progress of ADMM-Plus since its inaugural meeting in Hanoi in 2010.
The 10th anniversary of the ADMM-Plus, which will be held today, marks the accomplishment of the ADMM-Plus as an Asean-led platform for defence cooperation, and reflects the grouping's continued commitment to regional peace and stability into its second decade, said the declaration.
At the Asean-China Defence Ministers' Informal Meeting, General Wei reaffirmed China's commitment to strengthening the Asean-China defence relationship and cooperation.
The Asean ministers, in turn, expressed appreciation for China's help in the region in managing the Covid-19 pandemic, and their support for China's initiatives to deepen defence cooperation with Asean countries.
At the Asean-US Defence Ministers' Informal Meeting, Asean defence ministers welcomed Mr Miller to the ADMM-Plus, and reaffirmed Asean's support for the US' continued engagement of the region.
Mr Miller, who was appointed last month, reaffirmed Asean's centrality in the regional security architecture, the US' continued commitment to enhancing peace and stability in the region and its support for the ADMM-Plus, said Mindef.
The 7th ADMM-Plus today will be attended by the Asean defence ministers as well as defence ministers or their representatives from the eight partner countries.