At the meeting

The Vietnamese defense delegation participating in the ADMM-13 is led by Defense Minister General Ngo Xuan Lich.

Delivering the opening remarks, Chairman of the ADMM-13, Thai Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan thanked other ASEAN member countries for their support for Thailand’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2019 as well as for their attendance of the important regional defense meeting.

The ADMM-13 Chairman said that the meeting would focus on promoting ASEAN defense cooperation within the ADMM mechanism. He affirmed that ADMM and ADMM+ are the key defense cooperation mechanisms for ASEAN member countries to boost defense cooperation as well as for the bloc to maintain its central role in regional defense and security forums. Such defense cooperation mechanisms create opportunity for representatives of member countries to exchange views, contributing to promoting mutual understanding and trust.  

Speaking at the ADMM-13, Vietnamese Defense Minister General Ngo Xuan Lich stressed that the defense and security situation in the region and world sees fast and complex changes. Along with recent important achievements, ASEAN is facing challenges, including increased competition between major powers leaving a direct impact on the bloc.

In this circumstance, the Vietnamese Defense Minister said, ASEAN should consolidate unity, bring into play its self-determination and self-reliance, and strengthen its central role in leading regional cooperation mechanisms. It should also keep the strategic balance so as to maintain sustainable security in the region. General Lich also believed that under Thailand’s Chairmanship in 2019, ASEAN would reach large achievements in regional defense and security cooperation, contributing positively to regional peace, stability and development.

General Lich also revealed that Vietnam is actively preparing for its Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2020, emphasizing that Vietnam will continue ASEAN initiatives. The Vietnamese Defense Minister asked other ASEAN member countries to support Vietnam in performing its role as Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2020.

In his remarks, Philippine Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana thanked Vietnam for saving Philippine fishermen in distress last June.

During the meeting, delegates listened to various reports on: recent development of ASEAN, outcomes of the ASEAN Defense Senior Officials Meeting (ADSOM) in April 2019 and outcomes of the ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Meeting ((ACDFM) in March 2019.

Delegates focused discussion on the topic “Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing: Security impacts and role of armed forces and defense agencies. The discussion was based on Thailand’s idea that IUU fishing may lead to maritime challenges as well as other non-traditional challenges such as human trafficking, smuggling, weapons and drugs trafficking, piracy, illegal migration, transnational crimes, terrorism and financial assistance for terror activities.

Regarding IUU fishing, General Lich reaffirmed that Vietnam advocated common efforts of the region, saying that the Vietnamese Government is implementing necessary measures to prevent Vietnamese fishermen from violating the waters of other countries as well as other countries’ fishermen from violating Vietnam’s waters. He also said that the Vietnamese Defense Ministry advocates the Thai Defense Ministry’s initiative on enhancing the role of armed forces and defense agencies in preventing IUU fishing, saying that the Vietnamese will participate in the initiative in an active and responsible manner.

Defense leaders signed the Joint Declaration of ADMM-13

The fact is that many ASEAN member countries share maritime boundaries. They also have a large number of fishermen relying on sea resources. Another fact is that most of fishermen have little knowledge of other countries’ laws and navigation, which leads to their violations of other countries’ waters when fishing at high sea. According to the Vietnamese Defense Minister, few fishermen intentionally encroach on other countries’ waters so ASEAN countries should deal with such violation in a humane spirit, on the basis of unity and friendship of ASEAN member countries, and in line with international law. He suggested that ASEAN member countries should direct their navy and other maritime law enforcement forces avoid confrontation when dealing with fishermen’s violations at sea while promoting cooperation, increasing joint patrols, exercises on fight against smuggling at sea and IUU fishing, and popularizing relevant laws to fishermen. 

Delegates at the meeting also discussed defense and security situations in the region and world, and agreed to expand cooperation among ASEAN member countries in the fields of natural disaster relief and rescue, anti-terrorism, cyber security, confidence building, maritime security, freedom of navigation and aviation, UN peacekeeping operations.

Delegates reiterated the importance of signing a code of conduct in the South China Sea (East Sea) (COC) and fully and efficiently exercising the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

The ADMM-13 has adopted six concept papers which reflect the development and cooperation in response to key security challenges in the region, namely Concept Paper on the Guidelines for the Assessment of the ADMM Initiatives; Concept Paper on the Role of ASEAN Defense Establishments in Supporting Border Management; Concept Paper on Expansion of the ASEAN Direct Communications Infrastructure in the ADMM Process to the Plus Countries; Terms of Reference of ASEAN Our Eyes; Concept Paper on the Establishment of ASEAN Military Medicine Conference and Guidelines for Maritime Interaction; and the ADMM-13 Joint Declaration.

ADMM-13 also drafted some contents for the next ADMM Retreat and the 6th ADMM+, and agreed on informal meetings between ASEAN Defense Ministers and counterparts of its partners namely China, Japan, Russia and the US.

At the end of the meeting, head delegates signed the Joint Declaration of ADMM-13. The important document reiterates the enhancement and optimization of defense coordination among ASEAN member countries and between ASEAN and its ADMM Plus partners; the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security, and safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea, the need to foster mutual trust and refrain from actions that could further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful solutions to deal with disputes in line with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Delegates posing for a joint photo

The document also highlights the significance of full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), toward refining the first reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, paving the way for concluding an effective and practical Code of Conduct (COC).

The Joint Declaration of ADMM-13 also welcomes Vietnam to the Chairmanship of ASEAN and hosting of 14th ADMM and 7th ADMM+ in 2020.

Reported by Thu Trang from Bangkok, Thailand

Translated by Thu Nguyen