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                                                                                                                           Asean Affairs September 5, 2013  

US- ASEAN Militaries continue cosy ties

4 Sep 2013

On 28 Aug 2013 : Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei — On the first day of Southeast Asia’s most important annual defense ministerial conference, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met here with his counterparts from the 10 nations that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

On the sidelines, the secretary also took time for bilateral talks on the region and broader topics with his counterparts from Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Brunei, Burma and China.

The ASEAN member states are Burma, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. During lunch today and a meeting afterward, Hagel and the members discussed the need to advance practical cooperation to build trust and lower tensions throughout the region.

When Hagel was in Singapore in June attending the Shangri-La Dialogue meeting, he invited the ASEAN defense ministers to Hawaii in 2014 for an informal meeting — their first in the United States. During the luncheon, all 10 ministers accepted his invitation.

“I’m obviously very pleased about that,” Hagel said today. “It will give us another opportunity to strengthen and deepen the relationship with our partners here in the Asia-Pacific.”

Hagel noted the need to continue progress toward peacefully resolving territorial disputes, and committed to continued U.S. support for ASEAN, including its Defense Ministers’ Meeting, or ADMM, as a strong organization for achieving shared goals and upholding the common good, Pentagon press secretary George Little said.

During the meeting, a senior defense official said, each country expressed strong support for the steady U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific and viewed U.S. engagement in the region as a key contributor to peace and stability.

The representatives also expressed their support for continued active engagement by the United States in this part of the world, he said. “They see it’s essential for a peaceful stable environment and a prosperous environment around them,” the official added.

Brunei has served as chair of ASEAN this year, and yesterday Hagel met with Brunei’s energy minister, Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin. Little said the secretary recognized Brunei’s strong leadership as ASEAN chair and organizer of the June joint exercise involving humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and military medicine. Burma will take over next year as ASEAN chair.

Tomorrow morning, Hagel will attend the ADMM-Plus ministerial conference, hosted by Yasmin and made up of the 10 ASEAN defense ministers and eight dialogue partners: the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, New Zealand and Russia.

Senior defense officials said today that Hagel’s bilateral meetings were positive and productive.

During a meeting this morning with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Hagel was pleased to accept an invitation to visit Japan next year, and the two militaries agreed to establish a cyber defense effort together, a senior defense official said today.

“There’s a recognition that with both state and nonstate actors, cyber threats and thefts of intellectual property as well as penetrations of government and industrial networks are an increasing concern and there’s a need to cooperate and share information to deal with that,” the official said.

In other discussions, Little said, Hagel and Onodera exchanged views on the regional security environment, including North Korea's continued nuclear and ballistic missile developments.

Hagel said he looks forward during a visit to Tokyo in October to continued bilateral discussion on strengthening the alliance, and both men reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance in defending Japan and contributing to regional peace and security, Little added.

Both also expressed interest in continuing to modernize the alliance by enhancing their already strong security cooperation initiatives, the press secretary said.

“The U.S. very much appreciates Japan’s important role as a contributor to peace and stability in this region and the rest of the world,” Hagel told Onodera through a translator as the meeting began, “and I’m very much looking forward to my upcoming visit to Japan.”

Hagel also met today with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, thanking him for his friendship and reaffirming the United States’ enduring defense and extended deterrence commitments to South Korea. Little said Hagel told Kim it is a mutual duty to remain vigilant during this time of heightened tension on the Korean peninsula.

The leaders discussed the importance of recent U.N. Security Council resolutions designed to limit North Korea’s progress on nuclear and missile programs, the press secretary said. The Defense Department is focused on fulfilling security commitments but Hagel said diplomatic efforts are fundamental to encouraging North Korea to pursue the path of peace, Little added.

Hagel will travel to the South Korean capital of Seoul in October to attend the annual Security Consultive Meeting, a senior defense official said, and as part of that trip will be able to help commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War with the country’s leaders.

Later today, during bilateral discussions with Vietnamese Defense Minister General Phung Quang Thanh, Hagel accepted with appreciation an invitation to visit Vietnam in 2014 and through a translator wished the general a happy National Day, which the Vietnamese celebrate on September 2.

Hagel expressed his commitment to growing the bilateral defense relationship with Vietnam and working on issues like maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and recovering the remains of U.S. personnel missing in action, Little said.

The secretary also conveyed his commitment to continuing to implement the 2011 Memorandum of Understanding for Advancing Bilateral Defense Cooperation, the press secretary added.

On regional security, Little said, the leaders noted the importance of peacefully resolving disputes in the South China Sea and welcomed steps to develop an ASEAN Code of Conduct to guide that process.

This afternoon, Hagel met briefly with Burma’s defense minister, Lieutenant General Wai Lwin, expressing his support for Burma’s upcoming ASEAN chairmanship and telling the general that the department looks forward to supporting their efforts on ASEAN defense events next year.

A senior defense official noted that such a bilateral meeting at the defense minister level had not happened in more than 20 years with Burma, and that the meeting today is a “a sign of changes and the Obama administration’s very positive engagement with the Burmese, [as well as] recognition of the reforms that have been underway in that country and progress that’s being made on human rights.”

Hagel discussed with the Burmese defense minister the importance of continued progress on reform and said it’s also important that Burma sever military ties to North Korea, Little said.

Hagel applauded the Burmese military’s support for the government's democratic reform efforts and encouraged that the reforms continue.

Hagel also held a bilateral meeting with representatives from China.

Defense Ministers End Brunei Meeting with Joint Declaration
29 August 2013

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei — 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 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.”



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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More






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