Australia’s 2020 vision for defence engagement with ASEAN

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Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC

Minister for Defence

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Nicky Hamer (Minister Reynolds’ Office): +61 437 989 927

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20 February 2020

Australia is strongly committed to working with ASEAN and its member states to support an open, inclusive and prosperous region where the rights of all states are respected. Australia has a long history as a close partner and friend of ASEAN. We were ASEAN’s first dialogue partner in 1974 and entered into a strategic partnership with ASEAN in 2014. As a founding member of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), Australia is committed to working with the region to boost regional resilience and address shared security challenges. Our unbroken record of co-chairing an ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group in every cycle since their inception reflects Australia’s dedication to supporting practical cooperation and capacity building in the region.

The 2018 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit marked the beginning of a new era of cooperation between Australia and ASEAN. The 2020 Informal Defence Ministers’ Meeting builds on this foundation by facilitating direct engagement between Australian and ASEAN Defence Ministers to help shape the future of regional security cooperation. We must continue to advance our shared interests in an increasingly contested regional strategic environment.


Australia seeks to advance its shared interests with ASEAN in regional peace and stability, as enunciated in Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper and 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. ASEAN sits at the heart of the Indo-Pacific and we will work with our ASEAN partners to achieve common goals and priorities and reflect shared values. Australia’s defence cooperation with ASEAN will be guided by six core principles:

  • Mutual Respect
    Engaging with ASEAN, and its members, as equal partners; valuing and welcoming their views and opinions, and respecting the rights of all states.
  • ASEAN centrality
    ASEAN plays a critical role in supporting an inclusive and rules-based approach to maintaining regional security and stability. Australia will continue to support a strong, cohesive and resilient ASEAN and its central role in regional architecture.  
  • Supporting sovereignty
    Supporting resilience, independence and sovereignty to bolster each country’s freedom and capacity to shape its own future.
  • Addressing areas of shared priority
    Ensuring Australian engagement with ASEAN draws on the strengths of each partner and addresses areas of common importance.
  • Transparency
    Communicating openly and honestly with our ASEAN partners on priorities, concerns and opportunities, particularly on regional security issues and the evolving strategic environment. 
  • Respect for international law and norms
    Australia’s defence engagement with ASEAN will seek to support an effective and equitable rules-based international order that protects the interests of all countries. It will promote the peaceful resolution of disputes, and adherence to international law, such as the UN Charter and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Areas of Focus

Australia’s cooperation with defence organisations in Southeast Asia is underpinned by close engagement with our ASEAN partners in support of our shared regional priorities. While Australian cooperation with the region is wide-ranging, we have identified eight priority areas for defence cooperation where we can work with ASEAN to deliver practical, effective and meaningful contributions in support of shared objectives:

  • Education and Training
    Sharing experience and expertise through diverse training opportunities to boost the capability of regional defence organisations.
  • Women, Peace and Security
    Working together to increase women’s participation in peace and security processes in the region, reflecting that women’s voices help prevent and resolve conflict and support economic recovery and growth. 
  • Peacekeeping
    Providing practical support to help maintain or increase valued contributions from the region to United Nations peacekeeping missions. 
  • Countering Terrorism
    Building shared regional capability to address the evolving threat of terrorism. 
  • Maritime Security
    Supporting regional stability and prosperity by working together to address threats to the security of maritime activities, and maintaining free and open sea lines of communication.
  • Military Medicine
    Boosting our respective capacity to address common health challenges, including through Australia’s co-chairmanship with Brunei of the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Military Medicine 2020-2022.
  • Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief
    Ensuring our region is prepared and postured to work together to respond effectively to natural disasters.
  • Promoting communication, cooperation and interoperability
    Reinforcing open lines of communication with regional defence organisations and developing greater capacity to cooperate by building relationships, habits of cooperation and a common understanding of methodologies required to work together.

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