Addressing the opening session, General Eduardo M. Año, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines warmly welcomed the defense and military delegations of ASEAN member countries to the country to participate in the event, and highlighted significant contributions of ASEAN member countries’ armed forces to maintaining peace, stability and security in the region.
While underscoring the important role of the ACDFIM-14 in accelerating the establishment of more effective cooperation platforms to address common challenges, General Eduardo M. Año also pointed out that ASEAN can reach greater achievements when member nations promote their mutual respect, and mobilize their own individual strengths and join common efforts to build a peaceful, stable and secure environment in the region.
During the event, representatives of ASEAN military and defense delegations also made remarks, focusing discussion on non-traditional security issues, such as maritime security and anti-terrorism.
Delegates agreed that regional seas are important to all regional countries, including landlocked ones as seas function as effective transportation routes and contribute importantly to people’s life and national economic development of countries. Therefore, maritime security is a decisive factor for the stability of the bloc.
Delegates also shared the same view that no single country can effectively deploy its own measures to maintain maritime security in the current circumstance, and emphasized that the only efficient approach to keeping regional maritime security is to continuously promote confidence building, information sharing, cooperation on training for maritime law enforcement forces and joint patrol while encouraging all parties involved in the East Sea (South China Sea) to pursue their interests in a peaceful manner and on the basis of international law.
Many delegates also considered anti-terrorism an important regional issue, requiring joint efforts to effectively handle it. They expressed their concern that the number of religious extremist groups tends to increase, and that they are making full use of mobile devices and the Internet to propagandize their thoughts, recruit religious extremists in countries and expand their networks and activities in the region and world as a whole. Delegates suggested that regional countries should enhance information so as to improve public awareness and vigilance against terrorism. Defense forces of ASEAN member countries should also strengthen the available regional security mechanisms, particularly the role of the Experts’ Working Group on Counter-Terrorism within the framework of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+). Each member country is recommended to establish a sufficiently strong counter-terrorist force, regularly hold exercises with other relevant forces of the country and other regional countries in order to augment the force’s operational capacity and coordination ability, actively share information and experiences in counter-terrorism with regional partners, and increase border cooperation and joint maritime patrol.
Addressing the event, Lieutenant General Phan Van Giang, Vietnamese head delegate, hailed the host’s organization of the event with the theme “ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces: Partnering for Change, Engaging the World”. The theme of the event well reflected the desire of defense forces of ASEAN member countries to boost cooperation and called on regional countries to unite to address existing issues in the region.
Sharing the same view with other delegates on complex developments in the region and world, negatively impacting ASEAN member countries and the bloc as a whole, General Giang stated that all regional countries can benefit from security and safety of aviation and navigation in the East Sea.
Expressing big concern about continuous on-site developments directly threatening freedom, safety and security of aviation and navigation in the East Sea, General Giang asked the bloc to firmly preserve its principle and common viewpoint on dealing with all disputes by peaceful means in line with international law, particularly the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 while refraining from the use of force or threatening the use of force, respecting diplomatic and legal negotiations, fully implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and soon completing a Code of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea COC.
He suggested that armies of ASEAN member countries should increase joint activities to build up confidence, particularly practicing the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) and considering about extensive application of CUES.
According to the Vietnamese head delegate, ASEAN member countries should also take full advantage of the available regional security mechanisms like ADMM+, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and other international forums on maritime security, promote cooperation between/among maritime law enforcement forces of regional countries, and consider organizing joint patrol and information sharing, so as to more effectively maintain regional maritime security and safety.
Clarifying Vietnam’s foreign policy to be an active and responsible member of the international community, General Giang said that the Vietnam People’s Army has sent its forces to participate in all joint activities within the framework of ASEAN-led mechanisms, and will continue dispatching its military units to regional exercises and events, including the upcoming naval ship review, search and rescue drill, exercise to practice CUES in the Gulf of Thailand in celebration of the 50th founding anniversary of ASEAN; and to participate in a multilateral exercise on search and rescue in 2018. This should be seen as Vietnam’s commitment to continue contributing its part to regional military and defense cooperation activities for the sake of peace, stability, development and prosperity in Southeast Asia.
General Giang’s remarks were strongly applauded and widely advocated by ACDFIM-14 delegates.
At the end of the meeting, the participating delegations agreed to issue a Joint Statement and witnessed the handover of the ACDFIM Flag, the symbolic token of ACDFIM Chairmanship, between the Philippines and Singapore (the 2018 ACDFIM Chair).
In the afternoon, Lieutenant General Phan Van Giang had separate bilateral meetings with Philippine and Myanmar head delegates.
At the first meeting, General Eduardo M. Año thanked General Giang and Vietnamese delegation for their participation in ACDFIM-14, affirming that the participation of the Vietnam People’s Army in the event has contributed to the success of ACDFIM-14.
For his part, General Giang also thanked the Philippine side for its invitation of the Vietnamese delegation to the event, and reiterated that Vietnam will continue to support the Philippines as the 2017 ASEAN Chair.
The two sides expressed pleasure at good outcomes of cooperation between the two militaries in the past time, and agreed to boost bilateral defense cooperation, particularly on training, experience sharing in logistics, maritime security and military modernization.
At the meeting with General Min Aung Hlaing, Chief of the Armed Forces of Myanmar, General Giang said that Vietnam and Myanmar have much potential for defense cooperation in line with the interests of each country. He also took the chance to thank the Myanmar side for facilitating the Vietnamese military-run telecommunications group’s (Viettel) operation in the country.
General Min Aung Hlaing recalled his memories of his Vietnam visit earlier this year. He suggested that the two armies should promote cooperation on training, military medicine, sports and defense industry, in the coming time.
Reported by Hoang Ha from Manila, the Philippines.
Translated by Thu Nguyen