The event saw the participation of Defense Ministers from ASEAN member countries and partners, namely Australia, New Zealand, China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, India, the US, and Russia.

General Ngo Xuan Lich, Politburo member, Deputy Secretary of the Central Military Commission and Defense Minister, led the Vietnamese mission to participate in the meeting.

After the opening remarks by the host country’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Heng, the participants listened to a report on results of the recently-concluded 12th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM 12) and approved the agenda for the fifth ADMM+, and reviewed reports of ADMM+ working groups and ASEAN Defense Senior Officials’ Meeting Plus (ADSOM+), which took place in Singapore in July this year.

An overview of the meeting.

Addressing the event, Dr. Hoang Anh Tuan, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Political Security Community underlined that ASEAN-led cooperation mechanisms such as ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3, ARF, ADMM and ADMM+ have played an important role in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

The ASEAN official held that the East Sea (South China Sea) issue remains one of top priorities in the agenda of the association’s meetings over the past year. ASEAN member countries and China adopted the framework of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC), and now are negotiating details of the COC on the basis of a COC single draft and a confidence building measure for related parties, in order to deal with emergencies in the East Sea.

All heads of the fifth ADMM+ participating delegations emphasized the bloc's central role and valued practical cooperation in the ADMM+ mechanism, which has considerably contributed to peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world.

The meeting also discussed defense-security issues and non-traditional security threats in the region and the world, including counter-terrorism, recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, cyber security, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, transnational crime, and drug trafficking. Earlier, a representative from the host Singapore introduced a “Resilience, Response, Recovery” (3Rs) Concept on counter-terrorism.

General Ngo Xuan Lich at the meeting

The participants in the fifth ADMM+ recognized efforts of ADMM+ members in expanding cooperation on marine security. They stressed the need to seriously observe international law in dealing with sea disputes and affirmed the principle of solving disputes by peaceful means on the basis of international law.

Regarding the East Sea issue, the meeting reaffirmed the importance to observe the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and soon complete the COC, contributing to building mutual trust and ensure peace, security and stability in the region.

Addressing the fifth ADMM+, General Lich agreed with others on the need to fight terrorism and to take on confidence building measures. He said that terrorist threat is increasingly endangering the world, including Southeast Asia. The fight against terrorism goes beyond the capability of a single country, thus, it requires a comprehensive cooperative measure based on mutual trust.

The Vietnamese Defense Minister held that Vietnam backed efforts of the international community and extended cooperation to prevent terrorist activities in any forms and to address the origins of terrorism.

General Lich added that it hard to avoid conflicts and disputes among countries as interactions and interdependence among countries increase. This requires exerted efforts to further beef up trust building measures. So far, ASEAN member countries have effectively carried out trust building measures and approached conflict management and resolution via consultation mechanisms, information exchange, direct lines of communications among regional militaries, meetings for senior officials, and joint activities among armies.

He stated that results of cooperation in counter-terrorism, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, maritime security, military medicine, UN peacekeeping operations, mine action, and cyber security reflected efforts of ASEAN member countries in implementing trust building measures.

The establishment of direct communications lines, the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) for naval ships, and the guidelines for air encounters for military aircraft marked a new stage of the regional trust building among regional parties at sea, including in the East Sea, he said.

General Lich meets with his RoK counterpart on the sidelines of the meeting.

According to General Lich, they also should maintain the consent within ASEAN and the bloc’s central role in regional security mechanisms as well as heighten responsibilities of partner countries in implementing defense cooperation with ASEAN. He said that ASEAN needs to enhance the efficiency of ADMM+ cooperation by establishing a network of regional coordination centers to boost the seven areas of cooperation within the mechanism that are implemented by regional countries.

As for regional maritime security, including the East Sea security issue, General Ngo Xuan Lich emphasized that Vietnam always wants an East Sea of peace and development for the sake of common benefits of all parties. He added that Vietnam strongly supports peaceful solutions to all disputes, the fundamental principles of international law, and respects national independence, sovereignty and interests of every country. The Vietnamese Defense Minister expressed his hope that parties inside and outside the region would further show their responsibilities in building and maintaining an order in the sea, contributing to building an East Sea of peace, cooperation, and friendship.

He also hoped ASEAN members and their partners would support and assist Vietnam as the country will take over the Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2020.

At the end of the meeting, Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Heng handed over the Chair of ADMM, ADMM+ to his Thai counterpart Prawit Wongsuwan as Thailand will be the Chairman of ASEAN next year. Then, Mr. Wongsuwan informed the participants at the fifth ADMM+ of planned military-defense meetings in 2019. Vietnam and other countries backed and believed that Thailand would fulfill its tasks.

The fifth ADMM+ issued the Joint Statements on counter-terrorism cooperation and practical confidence-building measures.

* ASEAN-Japan Defense Ministers' Informal Meeting took place earlier on the day.

At the event, Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya affirmed that Japan supports the central role of ASEAN and hoped to take cooperation opportunities with ASEAN to boost cooperation outcomes. Japan also pledged to help ASEAN improve its capacity, especially in technology, and promote cooperation on the basis of the Document “Vientiane Vision.”

ASEAN Defense Ministers considered the meeting an opportunity for both sides to enhance mutual understanding and bilateral defense relationship. Hailing Japan’s contribution to maintaining the central role of ASEAN in the region, they hoped that, via cooperation, Japan would further contribute to regional peace, stability, and security.

General Lich stated that ASEAN and Japan should bolster their defense cooperation in the coming time, adding that Vietnam supports Japan in making more contribution to security, peace, and stability in the region, particularly to the implementation of “Vientiane Vision.”

In addition, General Lich also emphasized Vietnam’s consistent viewpoint on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and every effort to maintain peace and stability in the peninsula.

Translated by Van Hieu