Defense Ministers End Brunei Meeting with Joint Declaration
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, Aug. 29, 2013 Eighteen defense ministers from nations throughout the Asia-Pacific region sat together after their meeting here today, each in turn signing a joint declaration that reaffirms their commitment to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and to working together peacefully and cooperatively for a better future.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel attends the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus in Jenudong, Brunei, Aug. 29, 2013. DOD photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was among them, having traveled here as part of an Asian trip -- his second in three months -- that also includes stops in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Yesterday, Hagel attended a meeting here of defense ministers from the 10 ASEAN member states of Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. He also held bilateral meetings with counterparts from several other nations.
This morning, he attended the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus, made up of the 10 ASEAN defense ministers and eight dialogue partners: defense ministers from the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, New Zealand and Russia.
This year, Russia’s deputy defense minister, Anatoly Antonov, participated in the ADMM-Plus meeting.
“I see this second ministerial of the ADMM-Plus as a landmark event,” Hagel said in remarks prepared for delivery during the meeting.
“In 2010, when then-Secretary [Robert M.] Gates joined you, our countries committed to making the ADMM-Plus action-oriented,” Hagel said. “Under ASEAN leadership, we are well on our way, with three multinational field exercises this year -– a major accomplishment. I am proud that the United States has been a partner and participant all along the way.”
After the signing of the Bandar Seri Begawan Joint Declaration, Mohammad Yasmin Bin Umar, chairman of this second meeting of the ADMM-Plus, discussed key outcomes. He said the group was pleased with its substantial achievement this year, especially the five ADMM-Plus expert working groups that have forged political cooperation among defense forces.
“This is evident with the first-of-its-kind ADMM-Plus humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and military medicine exercise held in Brunei Darussalam last June,” he said. An upcoming exercise will be held on maritime security, counterterrorism and peacekeeping operations, he added, and the group decided last year that ADMM-Plus would begin meeting every two years rather than every three years.
Yasmin said the group reaffirmed the principle of ASEAN centrality, where ASEAN is the primary driving force in the ADMM-Plus processes.
“We also reaffirmed our relation to be guided by the fundamental principle enshrined in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation,” he said, “especially reunification of the threat of the use of force and exercise of self-restraint.”
The group recommitted to strengthen defense cooperation in promoting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, he added, based on the enduring principle of equality, mutual respect, mutual benefit, and respect for international law.
“In doing so,” Yasmin said, “we agreed to promote capacity building through greater engagement and interaction, enhance interoperability through training and joint exercises, and establish mechanisms for effective response.”
He said the defense ministers also agreed to establish practical measures for reducing vulnerability to miscalculation and avoid misunderstanding and undesirable incidents at sea.
“We also agreed on the establishment of the ADMM-Plus Expert Working Group on Humanitarian Mine Action and on the transition process of the ADMM-Plus Expert Working Group on Co-chairmanship,” Yasmin said. “Our senior official will develop a work plan and key milestones for the next cycle that begins in April 2014.”
A new ADMM-Plus initiative will promote capacity building through a humanitarian aid/disaster relief tabletop exercise and mine action workshop, he said. And the group will reaffirm the direction of the ASEAN leader during the association’s summit in May to promote synergy among regional mechanisms, including those of ADMM-Plus and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
The group also extensively discussed international and regional security and defense issues, and plans to meet again in Malaysia in 2015, he said.
In his remarks, Hagel said the ADMM-Plus is setting the right example with coordinated approaches to transnational and nontraditional threats.
“Pirates and terrorists, proliferators, diseases, natural disasters, and cyber criminals are not contained by national borders, and they will jeopardize all of our futures if we fail to act together,” the secretary said.
“Working together develops regional capacity and the habits of cooperation we need to solve today’s complex problems,” he said. “Exercising together builds trust and understanding, and reduces the risk of conflict when disputes arise.”