Minister for Defence – Intervention at the ASEAN-Plus Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM-Plus)

Mr Chairman, Ministerial colleagues.

Introduction

Firstly let me thank the Government of Brunei for its hospitality, for the hosting of this meeting and congratulate Brunei on its Chairmanship of ASEAN.

Thank you for the opportunity to share Australia’s views on Regional and International Security and Defence Issues.

Australia sees our current and future strategic interests overwhelmingly positioned in this part of the world, the Indo Pacific.

Australia has a long standing record of active participation in and support for multilateral security frameworks such as the ADMM-Plus.

The ADMM-Plus brings together Defence Ministers from the 10 ASEAN nations plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States. It is in effect Defence Ministers meeting in the East Asia Summit format.

By involving all members of the East Asia Summit, the ADMM-Plus strengthens and deepens trust and cooperation on defence and security matters throughout the Indo Pacific.

I had the honour to represent Australia at the first ADMM-Plus in October 2010 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and military medicine exercise held here in Brunei in June was a significant demonstration of practical cooperation involving all 18 ADMM-Plus member countries.

These practical military-to-military activities help foster regional partnerships and build transparency, openness and interoperability.

I welcome Indonesia’s plans to host a counter terrorism exercise next month and look forward to Australia hosting the inaugural maritime security exercise in October.

The ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Groups have added focus to this enhanced practical cooperation.

ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group (EWG) on Maritime Security

Australia has been afforded the opportunity to Co-Chair with Malaysia the Experts’ Working Group on Maritime Security over the past three years.

Since April 2011 the Working Group has met on five occasions, conducted a table top exercise against non-traditional maritime security challenges and reached consensus on establishing further practical activities and ways to enhance information sharing between member countries.

Australia and Malaysia will host the inaugural ADMM-Plus Maritime Security Field Training Exercise from 29 September to 1 October in the vicinity of Jervis Bay and the East Australian Exercise Area.

Fourteen of the ADMM-Plus member countries will participate in this exercise, with 12 members contributing ships.

I take this opportunity to thank all ADMM-Plus members for their support to this activity.

The achievements of this Working Group are commendable and are a direct result of the strong working relationship between Australia and our Co-Chair Malaysia.

Malaysia has worked tirelessly to drive the agenda of this Working Group and maintain the momentum for practical cooperation on maritime security issues.

I thank and acknowledge the strong leadership of Malaysia in this area.

ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group (EWG) on Counter Terrorism

I also take this opportunity to thank ADMM-Plus members for their support for Australia to Co-Chair with Singapore the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Counter Terrorism, commencing next year.

As Co-Chair of this Experts’ Working Group, Australia looks forward to the opportunity to continue building regional capacity, foster interoperability, build links and relationships and enhance information sharing.

Maritime Security

Our region is host to some of the world’s busiest and most strategic trade routes in the world.

Nine of Australia’s top ten trading partners sit around this table – our national prosperity therefore depends on the security and stability of the oceans, seas and straits of this region.

For all countries in our region, national security is closely linked to maritime security.

Ultimately we all rely on maritime trade for our national well-being and the collective stability of our region.

We all have an interest in seeing peaceful resolution of maritime disputes. We all have a clear interest in the security of maritime trading routes.

Maintaining stability in the South and East China Seas is essential to ensuring continued prosperity for all countries who rely on trade through this region.

We welcome the recent announcement of senior officials’ consultations between ASEAN and China, and continue to encourage the commencement of negotiations on a substantive Code of Conduct as soon as possible.

Korean Peninsula

North Korea’s nuclear and long range missile programs present a real and credible threat to the security of our region.

Stability on the Korean Peninsula is a strategic concern for our region. Australia will continue to work closely with our friends and partners for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula in the face of grave provocation from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Myanmar

One of the most encouraging developments in the region, from Australia’s perspective, is the continuing process of political reform in Myanmar.

Myanmar has made remarkable progress in initiating and driving this reform process since civilian government was established in 2011.  In March this year Australia announced that we would enhance our defence relationship with Myanmar.

Australia will place a resident Defence Attaché in Myanmar to allow for greater engagement and dialogue between the Australian Defence Force and the Tatmadaw and to open the way for cooperation in peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the future.

Australia welcomes Myanmar’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014 and is looking forward to taking an active role in all meetings and multilateral frameworks.

Importance of Regional Engagement

Australia sees the evolving ASEAN-centric security architecture as vital to ongoing maintenance of stability in the region.

Such architecture enhances strategic transparency by building habits of dialogue and practical cooperation.

This includes transparency on military modernisation as the economies of countries in the Indo Pacific continue to grow.

Continuing to build support for regional institutions and habits of dialogue will help us withstand and resolve tensions if and when they arise.

Conclusion

Multilateral security frameworks institutionalise rules of the road and international norms around cooperation and dialogue.

The ADMM-Plus is making a strong and lasting contribution to this through practical defence-to-defence and military-to-military cooperation.

By fostering a strategic environment around these themes all countries of the Indo Pacific will benefit from peace, stability, investment and prosperity.

Thank you.


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