On this occasion, the People’s Army Newspaper had an exclusive interview with Senior Lieutenant General Phan Van Giang. Below is the major content of the interview.

Answering the question about the importance of the event’s theme, the Chief of the General Staff stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic as unprecedented challenge, security flashpoints in the region and the world and the combination of existing and newly-emerging challenges requires ASEAN to further uphold solidarity and promote common strength. That will create consensus, unanimity, and collective power to respond to challenges in the most effective way.

This has led to the decision of the host to choose the theme “Military cooperation for a cohesive and responsive ASEAN” for the ACDFM-17 with the hope to contribute substantially to turning commitments of senior leaders into activities in reality. General Giang believes that this is the theme that holds long-lasting and practical significance in ASEAN cooperation.

Head delegates at the ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting in Singapore in 2018

As for the question about the agenda of the event, General Giang affirmed that as early as 2018 the Central Military Commission and Ministry of National Defense directed relevant agencies to propose contents and make preparations for all ASEAN military-defense meetings held in 2020 when Vietnam takes the ASEAN Chair. As for the ACDFM-17, when the COVID-19 broke out, the organizing panel decided to hold the event virtually. He stressed that all contents of the event agenda will be covered as scheduled, regardless of whether the meeting is held virtually or face-to-face.

At the event, chiefs of defense forces of ASEAN countries will share their positions on regional security with direct impacts on the region, discuss and outline orientations for cooperation in the future, and consider and approve the two-year cooperation plan of ASEAN militaries in the next two years. This will serve as the basis for ASEAN militaries to build up operation plans so as to further strengthen cooperation and better understanding among regional militaries and between ASEAN militaries and partners.

About chances for substantial cooperation among ASEAN militaries via the ACDFM-17, the Chief of the General Staff shared that when the COVID-19 was still not recognized by the WHO as a pandemic, ASEAN defense ministers had already issued a joint statement on defense cooperation against COVID-19 at the ADMM Retreat held in Hanoi. The militaries of ASEAN countries have proactively devised and implemented various initiatives in preventing and controlling the pandemic while carrying out cooperation activities among ASEAN militaries suitable with the “new normal” status. The initiatives include sharing of prevention and control experiences, scientific research cooperation, the organization of a joint exercise among ASEAN military medical forces, and more.

Those substantial cooperation activities in response to the COVID-19 situation among ASEAN militaries have been quickly implemented. This has vividly shown the world a cohesive and responsive ASEAN. Military cooperation among ASEAN countries has long been healthy and effective. It is likely to see more encouraging results from active cooperation in the coming time, bringing the cooperation to a new height, quick to respond to the same possible challenges in the future.

ACDFM is the highest military cooperation mechanism of ASEAN countries, responsible for guiding the implementation of military cooperation activities in ASEAN. The ACDFM-17 takes place at a time that requires ASEAN militaries to, more than ever, demonstrate their close coordination in actions and quick and prompt responses to challenges. General Giang hopes that ASEAN militaries will come together and agree on suitable cooperation plans in the coming time, joining hands to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic and effectively responding to any other challenges.

General Giang then answered the question about the initiatives that the host Vietnam will put forward to effectively promote ASEAN military cooperation in the context that COVID-19 has left considerable impacts on cooperation activities, especially field activities. He said, at the ACDFM-19, Vietnam will join other ASEAN militaries to share experience in dealing with non-traditional challenges, including COVID-19. They will also discuss measures to increase the effectiveness of existing cooperation mechanisms, enhance trust-building, improve each defense force’s capacity and coordination capabilities, and more.

The proposals made at the ACDFM-17 will contribute to devising new and more substantive and effective cooperation directions for ASEAN militaries in the future, contributing to maintaining the internal cooperation momentum and fulfillment of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 goals and maintaining the central role of ASEAN in ASEAN-led mechanisms.

Senior Lieutenant General Phan Van Giang believes that at the ACDFM-17 hosted by Vietnam, the strong determination and commitments of ASEAN chiefs of defense forces will help show the world a resilient, cohesive, and responsive ASEAN, marking the important role of ASEAN militaries.

Translated by Huu Duong