|At the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Retreat in Bangkok on November 17 (Photo: VNA)
The two meetings focused on measures to strengthen national defense, promote trust, and enhance cooperation between ASEAN and its dialogue partners. The discussions centered around humanitarian aid, disaster relief, maritime security, military medicines, anti-terrorism, peacekeeping activities, humanitarian activities, and cyber security.
East Sea plays an important role in ensuring sustainable security
On Sunday, ASEAN Ministers discussed maritime security challenges and the East Sea issue emphasizing the importance to regional and global security of maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea. They agreed that ASEAN needs to stay united, maintain its central role, and lead cooperation mechanisms in the region to cope with emerging challenges.
Vietnamese Minister of Defense Ngo Xuan Lich said international law might not be completed due to rapid changes around the world, but it is an effective tool to adjust relations between countries and maintain peace and stability in the region and the world. Non-compliance with international law, or only compliance with international law when it benefits oneself will cause distrust and lead to escalation of tension and confrontation. Lich said: “Recent tension in the East Sea due to unilateral action, disrespect for the legitimate interests of other countries, and non-compliance with international law and norms, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea has threatened regional peace and security. Major countries have their own pursuits and without consensus, regional countries will be left to deal with their own problems. To make the East Sea a peaceful, stable, and secured area all countries must respect international law and have an earnest commitment and responsibility.”
At the informal meeting with China’s Defense Ministers, ASEAN Defense Ministers expressed concern for maritime freedom in the East Sea but acknowledged recent progress in negotiating the Code of Conduct between ASEAN and China. The Chinese Defense Minister pledged to cooperate with ASEAN in settling disputes at sea.
Voices of ASEAN countries
At the informal meeting with ASEAN Defense Ministers, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed concern about security in Indo-Pacific and affirmed the US’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific on the basis of respecting national independence and sovereignty and international law. He said the US pursues a policy of promoting freedom of navigation and aviation and the legal use of air and sea. Esper strongly criticized China’s illegal claims of sovereignty in the East Sea.
The US praised ASEAN’s shared view on the East Sea issue saying the ASEAN Statement will be a strong tool to show solidarity.