TRANSCRIPT: EXTRACTS FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE - 8TH FPDA DEFENCE MINISTERS’ MEETING WITH DR NG ENG HEN, DATO SERI DR AHMAD ZAHID BIN HAMIDI, WAYNE MAPP & PHILIP HAMMOND
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
TOPICS: FPDA, ADDM, South China Sea.
DR NG ENG HEN: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Again, thank you for attending this press conference, the 8th FPDA Defence Ministers' Meeting.
Let me first start by introducing my colleagues, defence ministers from other countries, if I can start from the extreme left, the Right Honourable Defence Minister Philip Hammond from the UK, Minister Dr Wayne Mapp from New Zealand, Dato Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid bin Hamidi from Malaysia, and the Honourable Stephen Smith from Australia.
Singapore is delighted to host this FPDA longstanding multilateral security arrangement. As you know, this is our 40th Anniversary. We have coincided the 8th FPDA Ministers' Meeting with this.
It's a historic occasion and we have issued our press release in terms of what we have discussed and concluded at this morning's meeting.
I thought it would be useful if I asked my counterparts, defence ministers from other countries, to give their impressions and say a few words before I round up and open the floor to questions.
If I can start on the extreme right from the Minister from Australia, Minister Stephen Smith.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you very much. Can I start by thanking Singapore firstly and Malaysia secondly for arranging and organising and hosting the 40th Anniversary of the Five Powers Defence Arrangement and to Singapore for today hosting the 8th Ministerial Meeting. I'm very pleased to be in Singapore again and very pleased to join with my Five Powers Defence Arrangement colleagues.
The Five Powers Defence Arrangement is a very important regional arrangement. Of course it grows out of the security needs of the then Malaya, the now Malaysia and Singapore over 40 years ago.
Indeed, the bonds between our five countries stretch back further than that. This morning I laid a wreath at the Commonwealth War Graves at Kranji and there you find service personnel from the five countries now represented. So there are deep military and defence and historical links between our five countries.
Now in our 40th year we've effected a stocktake and that's been very well done by officials. Not only do we continue to deal with what we regard as traditional security concerns but also looking to how we can cooperate even further on some modern challenges: anti-piracy, counter-terrorism and humanitarian and disaster - humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
It brings five countries which share important bonds, whether they're Commonwealth, whether they're historical, working together in a very practical way.
What you've just seen here underlines very much, I think, the real strength of the Five Powers Defence Arrangement which is the practical cooperation, the exercises, the rigour, building confidence between the service personnel concerned and becoming used to dealing with each other, dealing with modern - modern challenges.
So this is an arrangement which if it didn't exist today and we tried to create it, we would have enormous difficulty persuading five countries to so proceed, so what starts with deep historical links now becomes a modern, practical cooperation vehicle which has been, of course, a very good cooperation between our five countries but also a contributor to peace and stability and security in our region. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: I'm from the Malaysian National News Agency. I mean, after all the exercises and the meeting that you had, perhaps what is next, you know? The next move that you're going to do here?
DR NG ENG HEN: We had a stocktake of the paper which addressed the question, the essential question: how do we update our relevance in what we do. We felt that there were a number of areas we could expand in. In terms of non-conventional operations HADR seems to be one clear focus and in this particular exercise there was a HADR component.
So I would briefly summarise to say that we were aware of the new security challenges but I would also like to ask my counterparts to give their views in terms of what next.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you. The Five Powers Defence Arrangement started, as previous ministers have said, as a result of the conventional security concerns for Malaysia and Singapore. These days we live in a modern world where there are many more concerns and challenges and issues than conventional security threats: counter-terrorism, piracy and these days, in our part of the world, a consistent call for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and also new and emerging challenges in cyber security and cyber threats is one of those.
The real strength of the Five Powers Defence Arrangement is that out of those historical conventional security challenges and threats has grown a very smooth-running practical cooperation between five nations which is easily able to be adapted to modern challenges.
I think there is a lot of potential in terms of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
All five countries in a different way face challenges caused by piracy, whether in this part of the world or off the Horn of Africa and cyber security is not just a challenge for nations it's a challenge for business and industry as well.
From Australia's perspective, there are also those deep historical linkages. One of the things which works very well for Australia is the point that Dr Ahmad has made which is we have a regional organisation which has essentially a joint operations headquarters.
Australia has always had officials closely involved in Headquarters at Butterworth HQ Integrated Area Defence System.
Indeed, historically there was a time when Australia had thousands of personnel, defence personnel, mainly Air Force, at Butterworth. Now we have a small number of personnel, around 150, working in a regional cooperative arrangement which is very practical.
As a consequence it's adaptable to new challenges and to circumstances which arise at short notice and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief I think is uppermost amongst those.
JOURNALIST: Hi, good afternoon. I'm Mr Eng from the Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper. I'd like to ask at the last ADMM meeting in Bali, one of the topics being brought up was maritime security, especially the part on the South China Sea. So I'd just like to ask - I mean, Australia has a Defence White Paper which describes about China's military and Malaysia is a claimant state of the South China Sea so I'd like to ask all the ministers about your views on how do you resolve the maritime security issue in the South China Sea with rising China military presence? Thank you.
STEPHEN SMITH: Australia's Defence White Paper 2009 is not aimed at any one particular country nor is what Australia describes as the Asia Pacific Century a result of only one particular country. Yes, everyone sees the rise of China but strategic, political, security, military, economic influence is moving to our part of the world, to the Asia Pacific, not just because of the rise of China, the rise of India, the ongoing importance and engagement in the Asia Pacific with the United States, the ongoing economic importance of Japan and the Republic of Korea, let alone the exponential increase in the importance of the ASEAN economies combined.
For example, in the decade between 1996 to 2006 Australia's trade, on average, with ASEAN countries improved by 115 per cent, grew by 115 per cent. So all of these factors see a shift of influence to our part of the world. Whenever there is a strategic shift, a region, the international community, needs to adapt to that and that is part of the process which we're now going through and so you can mount a very good argument that the most important bilateral relationships in the course of this century will be the United States and China, the United States and India and India and China, as what will be three great powers or three superpowers.
And so the regional architecture will be very important in that respect and that's why Australia strongly supported the notion of an expanded East Asia Summit which would see all of the key countries in our part of the world, including the United States, in the same room at the same time, able to have a conversation both about prosperity and about peace and security.
In the defence ministers' context we had the first of those meetings in Hanoi in October of last year and, as the Doctor has said, Australia and Malaysia volunteered to co-chair the maritime security expert working group.
That may well prove to be a very important piece of our regional architecture. Maritime disputes, territorial disputes, again don't just involve one country. They can involve a number of countries. Indeed, in our part of the world, we know there are maritime or territorial disputes where more than two countries are involved or concerned.
All Australia asks is that where there are such maritime or territorial disputes that they're settled by the parties concerned, they're settled amicably and they're done in accordance with international law and international norms.
And if they're not settled in accordance with those processes then they can potentially be a cause of concern or a cause of conflict and that's why, as Dr Ahmad has said, there is a role for regional or multilateral processes to ensure that such disputes don't become a cause of conflict or a cause of concern in the region and that's one of the reasons, as a maritime country, as an island country, as an island continent, Australia is very happy to join with Malaysia to co-chair the ADMM-Plus maritime working group.
The traffic of sea lanes is very important to Australia economically; as it is important to Singapore, obviously, Malaysia as well, let alone New Zealand and the United Kingdom. So this is a key policy issue for all of us.
But it's been general stability and security in our part of the world which over the last 40 years has seen a massive increase in prosperity. We want that prosperity to continue and ongoing peace and stability, as we manage the emergence of China, as manage the emergence of India, as we manage the ongoing enduring importance of the United States, as those three countries emerge into what is described as a multi-polar world, then ongoing peace and stability leads to even more potential for greater prosperity and economic progress in our part of the world and Australia's very optimistic and very confident that any of the issues that emerge as a result of a changing strategic or a changing strategic outlook or a changing world can be managed and working closely in the Five Powers Arrangement, working closely in the ASEAN-related regional architecture is a very important contribution to make in that respect.
DR NG ENG HEN: Before I call upon you, just to make a point that the FPDA and the ADMM-Plus are different platforms to in your reporting try not to confuse the two.
JOURNALIST: Good afternoon, gentlemen. I'm Shah(*) from Graduate Defence magazine. I have a question for your guys. Of course FPDA was created 40 years ago to defend Malaysia and Singapore from aggressions so my question is, what is the level of commitment of the members of FPDA, especially UK, Australia and so on, to assist Malaysia and Singapore hypothetically if we were so-called attacked or harmed by a certain aggressive nation? Thank you.
DR NG ENG HEN: Politics 101. Never answer hypothetical questions so let's not answer that but the essential question, how committed are you, friends, if we get attacked? Perhaps I'll ask Minister Hammond.
PHILIP HAMMOND: Well, of course, Dr Eng is perfectly correct, never answer a hypothetical question but the whole purpose of FPDA is to represent to potential threats to the security of Singapore and Malaysia a united front and an awareness of the commitment of other nations to the security of Malaysia and Singapore.
It is not a tripwire response organisation in the way, for example, that NATO is under Article 5 so it is primarily about demonstrating a political resilience. It is about preparing coordinated military response through these exercises so that there is a credible - there's a possibility of presenting a credible case for a coordinated military response but clearly the reality of the context in which we exist is that this is about sending a signal of deterrence and standing shoulder to shoulder, exercising together in the way that FPDA does, which I think is pretty much unparalleled in the region, is hopefully still, after 40 years, a valuable addition to Malaysia and Singapore's security, simply by demonstrating that level of solidarity.
WAYNE MAPP: A very interesting question which can actually be answered by history. All members of the FPDA in history have actually protected each other when - when called upon. You only have to think of Malaya and, of course, Konfrontasi from the 1960s. When the call was required, it was answered and FPDA has its origins directly from that but, of course, it has a contemporary dimension because we are no longer in the '60s so whilst that fundamental condition I am sure prevails, it's not actually the expectation that would be - occur now but rather a better way of thinking about it in the contemporary form is the way it is - locks together the five nations as part of the broader regional architecture. And the reason I emphasise that is because it's from that actually you get sort of a peace. If I was sort of to answer that in part the last question, the way to deal with these challenges is you start off with a rules-based system. That's international law, self-evidently, and then the next part is you've got to have an enforcement mechanism. Well, the regional security architecture is actually that enforcement mechanism and it's achieved by ensuring people working together.
I think you can find the answer to your question quite comfortable in fact in what actually happened in the past because I'm sure, should that ever occur in the future, the same answer would be provided.
DR NG ENG HEN: Minister Smith?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, in the Australian context I simply echo the sentiments of my colleagues from the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
DR NG ENG HEN: Well put. Thank you.