Yesterday and today, Wednesday and Thursday 28-29 August, I visited Brunei Darussalam to attend the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) and to conduct bilateral discussions with regional partners.
The ADMM-Plus brings together Defence Ministers from the ten members of the Association of South East Asian Nations and the eight ‘Plus’ countries of the East Asia Summit, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States.
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.
During today’s formal ADMM-Plus Meeting, Defence Ministers exchanged views on regional and international security challenges and reaffirmed the importance of building trust in the Indo-Pacific region through practical military-to-military and defence-to-defence cooperation.
My intervention during today’s Meeting is available here: http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2013/08/29/minister-for-defence-intervention-at-the-asean-plus-defence-ministers-meeting-admm-plus/
Practical cooperation under the ADMM-Plus occurs through Experts’ Working Groups (EWGs) on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security, military medicine, counter-terrorism and peacekeeping operations.
Australia is an active participant in the EWGs and currently co-chairs the Maritime Security EWG with Malaysia.
Next year, Australia will co-chair the Counter-Terrorism EWG with Singapore.
Three significant military exercises occur under the ADMM-Plus framework during this year.
A Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise was held in Brunei Darussalam in June, and a Counter-Terrorism Exercise will be held in Indonesia on 9-13 September.
On 29 September - 1 October, Australia will host a Maritime Security Field Training Exercise in the vicinity of Jervis Bay and the East Australian Exercise Area. This will involve representatives and ships from 14 of the 18 ADMM-Plus member states. This is a significant demonstration of the practical military cooperation that occurs under the auspices of ADMM-Plus.
During today’s Meeting, Defence Ministers welcomed the establishment of a new ADMM-Plus EWG on Humanitarian Mine Action, which will promote practical and effective cooperation among member states in dealing with the remnants of war in the region.
Australia has been at the forefront of efforts to rid our region of explosive remnants of war and looks forward to working with the EWG’s inaugural co-chairs, Vietnam and India, and ADMM-Plus partners to further strengthen regional cooperation on this important issue. Australia supported Vietnam’s suggestion for this new EWG.
At the conclusion of today's ADMM-Plus, Defence Ministers released a Joint Declaration which is available here.
With my ADMM-Plus counterparts, I then participated in an audience with His Majesty, the Sultan of Brunei.
While in Brunei Darussalam, I conducted discussions with a range of regional counterparts.
Yesterday evening I discussed the situation in Syria with the United States Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. Secretary Hagel and I also continued our discussions on greater US involvement in the region and reaffirmed our commitment to enlarged US Marine rotations in northern Australia.
In June this year, Australia and the United States agreed to progress to a larger six month rotation of around 1150 US Marines to northern Australia from 2014. The intention over coming years is to establish a six month rotational presence (not before 2016) of an up to 2500 person Marine Air Ground Task Force, rotating into northern Australia in the six month northern dry season.
Following the successful completion of Exercise Talisman Saber 2013, around 1000 Australian Army and United States Marine Corps personnel are currently participating in Exercise Koolendong 2013, which is being conducted at the Bradshaw Field Training Area south-west of Darwin.
Around 700 Marine Corps personnel are involved in the Exercise and have been drawn from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Okinawa, Japan and around 150 from the Marines currently on a six month rotation in Darwin. Australia's contribution comprises 150 Australian Army personnel from the 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment based at Robertson Barracks in Darwin.
I met with Singaporean Defence Minister Ng. We discussed our ongoing bilateral cooperation and welcomed Australia and Singapore’s appointment from next year as co-chairs of the ADMM-Plus Counter-Terrorism Experts’ Working Group.
I also met with Malaysian Defence Minister Hishamuddin to discuss the important collaboration between our two countries as the inaugural co-chairs of the ADMM-Plus EWG on Maritime Security. As members of the Five Powers Defence Arrangements, we reaffirmed our commitment to supporting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
As well, I met with New Zealand’s Minister of Defence, Dr Jonathan Coleman, Vietnam’s Minister of National Defense, General Thanh and Myanmar’s Minister for Defence, Lieutenant General Wai Lwin.
During the course of today, I also had discussions with China’s Minister of National Defence, General Chang, Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo, Japanese Defense Minister Onodera, Republic of Korea’s Defence Minister Kim, Indian Minister of State for Defence Singh and Thailand’s Deputy Defence Minister Yathasak.
This afternoon I laid a wreath at the Pantai Muara Memorial which commemorates the Australian-led liberation of Brunei from Japanese occupation by Allied forces and the local population in June 1945.
Minister Smith’s Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528