'Good progress' on adoption of world's first multilateral air guidelines: Ng Eng Hen

Asean Defence Ministers pose for a group photo at the start of the 12th Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting at the Shangri-la Hotel Singapore, on Oct 19, 2018. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Asean defence ministers have made good progress on three priorities at their annual meeting, including the adoption of the world's first guidelines on unplanned military aerial encounters, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Friday (Oct 19).

The other two include steps to enhance the region's cooperation against terrorism "that is a real and present threat, and growing" and to build up Asean's capabilities against biological, chemical and radiological threats from terrorists and other rogue actors.

Dr Ng said Singapore, as Asean chair, had proposed to move on the three "bold initiatives" which all the other Asean defence ministers agreed on, adding that good progress has been made since the ministers last met at a retreat in February this year.

He said the strong support from Asean defence ministers will result in them making a joint declaration if members accept it at the end of the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM).

"Through these three outcomes, we will show to the world that as Asean defence ministers, we can seize the initiative, take decisive actions that can enhance stability in our region.

"It will underscore the centrality of Asean in setting direction and building this momentum," said Dr Ng, at the opening of the two-day ADMM on Friday.

Singapore is chairing the 12th ADMM on Friday at Shangri-la Hotel, and the 5th ADMM-Plus on Saturday. It is the first time that Singapore is chairing the ADMM-Plus since it was established in 2010, and the second time it is chairing ADMM since it began in 2006.

Dr Ng said a full slate of 18 ministers is expected to attend the ADMM-Plus meeting for the first time.

Other than Asean countries, the eight others involved in the ADMM-Plus are Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States.

Dr Ng also spoke about other key outcomes to be expected at the meeting, such as the Asean-China maritime exercise taking place next week and the inaugural Asean-US maritime exercise next year.

"The table-top exercise was successfully concluded, and the full troop exercise will be held next week at Zhanjiang. Asean centrality will be further emphasised if we agree to today's proposal for the Asean-US Maritime Exercise next year," he said.

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