Shangri-La Dialogue: Defence ministers call for stronger cooperation to combat terrorism threat

General (Rtd) Ryamizard Ryacudu, Minister of Defense, Indonesia, with Singapore Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen during a bilateral meeting. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and his 22 visiting counterparts and their representatives underscored on Saturday (June 3) that greater regional and international cooperation, such as the Sulu Sea patrols, are needed to prevent terrorists from gaining a foothold in this region.

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines had agreed in May last year to conduct coordinated sea patrols in the Sulu Sea, and establish a hotline to combat piracy and kidnappings in waters bordering the three nations.

Indonesia has invited Singapore to take part in the joint patrols, Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said on Saturday.

Meeting at a roundtable during the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), Dr Ng and the other defence chiefs acknowledged that terrorism was a global threat that would likely worsen with the return of foreign fighters and amid closer links among various terror groups, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

The expression of concern came amid a recent spate of terror attacks in the region, including twin suicide bombings in Jakarta late last month and the ongoing ISIS-linked insurgency in the southern Philippine city of Marawi.

To safeguard national security, it is important to place greater emphasis on education and counter-radicalisation messaging, the ministers agreed, according to Mindef.

The Ministerial Roundtable has been a regular feature of the SLD since the annual high-level security forum was launched in 2002. Besides discussing terrorism, the ministers on Saturday also welcomed the US' continued engagement of the Asia-Pacific region under the new Donald Trump administration, calling it a reaffirmation of the US' long-standing interest in and commitment to the region.

They reaffirmed the importance of a healthy and constructive US-China relationship, and noted that major powers could engage in common areas of cooperation to maintain regional peace and stability, the ministry said.

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On the other regional concern of North Korea, which has conducted a dozen missile tests this year, the ministers noted that the provocative actions have grave implications on the region's peace and stability, the statement said.

They called for the isolated state to take all necessary steps to de-escalate the situation, and abide by its international obligations. They also emphasised the need for all major players in the region to resume dialogue and manage tensions on the ground.

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