Asean defence ministers agree to strengthen regional cooperation

Asean defence ministers adopted the joint declaration on defence cooperation to strengthen solidarity for harmonised security at the 16th edition of the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM).

The ADMM was held in Cambodian capital Phnom Penh in person yesterday, after two years of virtual meetings prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

"The declaration reaffirmed the countries' commitment to enhance strategic dialogue and practical defence cooperation through the ADMM and ADMM-Plus as the region's key security architecture, and highlighted the importance of Asean centrality and the need to uphold a rules-based order anchored in international law," said Singapore's Ministry of Defence (Mindef) in a statement yesterday.

The ADMM-Plus is a dialogue that involves Asean and Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, as well as the United States.

Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said discussions at the ADMM were productive and covered a range of current security issues, including on threats in the cyber and information domain.

The meeting also adopted the terms of reference of the ADMM Cybersecurity and Information Centre of Excellence (ACICE), which spells out the scope of its activities.

Located in Singapore, the ACICE was established last year to share information and build capacity against threats in the cyber and information domains.

Dr Ng added that the ADMM had issued a substantive joint declaration, which urged the early conclusion of a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

He also emphasised Asean's efforts to bring about a peaceful transition to normalcy in Myanmar through implementing the five-point consensus of the Asean leaders' meeting in April last year.

The ADMM also adopted the Phnom Penh vision on the role of defence establishments in support of Covid-19 recovery, co-sponsored by Cambodia and Singapore, said Mindef.

"The vision recognises the ADMM's contributions to national Covid-19 efforts, including through the network of Asean chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) defence experts and the Asean Centre of Military Medicine.

"It pledges to continue cooperation to support the region's recovery from the pandemic, such as by leveraging the network of Asean CBR defence experts to exchange information and lessons learned to combat the pandemic."

In addition to attending the ADMM, Dr Ng participated in a joint call on Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as the Asean-Japan and Asean-China defence ministers' informal meetings.

Dr Ng also called on Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence, General Tea Banh, added Mindef.

Both parties reaffirmed friendly bilateral defence ties between the countries, as well as the importance of Asean centrality and unity amid geopolitical developments.

The ADMM retreat and the 9th ADMM-Plus meeting will be held later in the year, the venue for which is yet to be confirmed.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2022, with the headline Asean defence ministers agree to strengthen regional cooperation. Subscribe