Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
Hanoi, 12 October 2010
Mr Chairman, Secretary-General, Ministerial colleagues.
I thank the Government and people of Vietnam for hosting this inaugural Meeting and congratulate the people of Hanoi on its 1000th anniversary.
ASEAN was established in 1967 to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development, and promote peace and stability in our region.
Australia has long supported ASEAN and its related forums.
Australia has long supported the objectives of economic prosperity and peace and stability in our region.
Australia became ASEAN’s first dialogue partner in 1974, and we are very pleased to have been invited, along with seven other ASEAN dialogue partners, to be an inaugural member of the ASEAN-Plus Defence Ministers’ Meeting.
The creation of the ASEAN-Plus Defence Minsters’ Meeting – which includes the membership of the East Asia Summit and the United States and Russia – means the region has taken a most significant step towards meeting its peace and security challenges.
Mr Chairman, Australia believes that ASEAN-Plus Defence Ministers should take the broad view of what security means in the modern day.
This needs to include not just traditional security challenges, but new and emerging non-traditional security challenges – like terrorism and disaster relief – which give rise to new challenges for nations and regions alike.
Australia is committed to addressing all these security challenges, drawing upon all elements of national power, in cooperation and partnership with our friends and neighbours through this forum.
The establishment of the ASEAN –Plus Defence Ministers’ Meeting offers real opportunities for practical cooperation. As a maritime nation, Australia is particularly interested in the need and the potential for regional cooperation in maritime security.
For many of us here, our national security is closely linked to maritime security. As well, our national prosperity depends on the security and stability of the oceans, seas and straits.
Eight of Australia’s top ten trading partners sit around this table today. All rely on maritime trade for both national well-being and the collective stability of our region.
As well, it is in our collective interest to look at ways through which we can cooperate and coordinate in using our maritime resources to respond to the all-too-frequent requirements of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Moving people and relief supplies quickly in response to contingencies, such as Australia has recently done in Pakistan, will continue to be a task critical to our region.
Just as, for example, will continue cooperation in countering piracy.
As well, in our region and beyond there are a range of unresolved territorial disputes, including maritime disputes, whether in the South China Sea or elsewhere.
Where these occur, Australia wants to see these issues resolved amicably and peacefully between the parties concerned in accordance with international law, and in a way which ensures regional stability. Regional diplomacy can often assist in such beneficial outcomes.
Australia regards the proposed ASEAN Code of Conduct as a good starting point in this respect.
Mr Chairman, this forum can contribute to greater practical maritime cooperation and understanding, fostering a positive and constructive dialogue and finding solutions to maritime challenges as they emerge.
This is why Australia has indicated its willingness to co-chair the Expert Working Group on Maritime Security.
Mr Chairman, terrorism remains an issue of great concern to Australia and to our region. Over 100 Australians and many more from our region have been killed by terrorists in attacks over the last decade.
We have made progress. Great strides have been taken in our region to combat the threat of terrorism. For example, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore have made great strides in combating the extremist Islamist group known as Jemaah Islamiyah.
This has made the region a safer place for all of us.
But we cannot be complacent. As last year’s deadly attacks in Jakarta showed, terrorists remain resilient and adaptable. Even small groups can inflict great harm.
Earlier this year Australia released a Counter-Terrorism White Paper, setting out our approach to combating terrorism, both domestically and internationally. Regional cooperation is critical to both the national and international community response.
This forum has great potential to support our approach to countering terrorism. The sharing of information enables us to coordinate the protection of our citizens, building links and relationships we can draw upon when preventing, or responding to attacks.
Most importantly, this forum can be part of the vital work of building a flexible, resilient and mutually-supportive regional community committed to peace, stability and tolerance.
Mr Chairman, Australia also highlights the opportunity to greatly increase our cooperation in the field of peacekeeping.
The nations around this table are increasingly contributing significantly to United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world – Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia and Korea all have troops committed to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, while India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and the US have committed troops to the United Nations mission in Haiti.
As part of our broader support to the United Nations, Australia has a long-standing and proud tradition of supporting peacekeeping operations where we are able. I cannot foresee a lessening need to support the United Nations’ operations into the future. In recent times, Australia has also helped to build and facilitate peacekeeping capacity and capability among nations in our own region.
The ASEAN-Plus Defence Ministers’ Meeting presents a timely opportunity to share our experiences and lessons in this field, to develop coordinated regional responses to emerging crises and to explore how we can support each other as we contribute to these important missions.
In the last two years, Australia has worked closely with Malaysia in particular to help build the region’s peacekeeping capacity – an effort we are committed to continuing.
Mr Chairman, the establishment of this most important regional institution provides an opportunity to move our regional security cooperation beyond humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. It allows us to cooperatively tackle the emerging peace, stability and security challenges that will inevitably arise in the years to come.
The ASEAN-Plus Defence Ministers’ Meeting has a critical role to play in that cooperation. Australia is both honoured and pleased to be a part of this historic meeting, inaugurating this important peace and security forum.
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