Asia-Pacific defence leaders meet to discuss security issues

National 2 minutes, 32 seconds


THE Deputy Minister of Defence yesterday underscored the growing importance of multilateralism in defence in a globalised world.

At the opening of the Chiefs of Defence Conference, Dato Paduka Hj Mustappa Hj Sirat said multilateralism in defence reinforced the fundamental notion and principles of sovereignty, independence and integrity and the objectives of maintaining peace, security and stability.

“Multilateralism in defence is more vital now as we live in a globalised world,” he told military leaders and representatives of 26 countries at The Empire Hotel & Country Club.

He said through history, countries were presented with a range of policy options in multilateralism in defence diplomacy from practical cooperation to forming defence arrangements such as the Five Power Defence Arrangement.

Policy options also included advocating military alliances, such as NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and embracing common defence policies and common security by groups of countries.

In his keynote address titled ‘Defence Cooperation in The Context of Multilateral Diplomacy in The Region’, Dato Hj Mustappa said ASEAN has been at the forefront of multilateralism and has long recognised the importance of defence cooperation in addressing regional security challenges.

However, he noted the journey to building trust and confidence was “long and intricate”, alluding to the formation of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting 40 years after ASEAN was established.

“The challenge for us was to build comfort level, mutual trust and confidence and personal friendships,” he said, adding that dialogue and consensus remain the main thrust of ASEAN defence diplomacy while maintaining peace and comfort level as a measure to success.

He said ASEAN relations have become more valuable as their cooperation will be cemented with the formation of the ASEAN Charter and ASEAN Political Security Community.

On the future prospects of defence diplomacy, Dato Hj Mustappa highlighted the value of cooperation in peace support activities or Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) in its actual practice of preventing conflict.

“Given the political will, the potential for defence cooperation remains vast. There has been no lack of goodwill and determination to progress,” he said.

Noting the different perspectives at the conference, he said the essence of multilateralism is to clearly understand and appreciate differences as well as work towards establishing close friendships that would be of value for developing meaningful cooperation in the future.

Themed ‘Multilateralism: Practical Cooperation Towards Shared Responsibilities’, the four-day conference promotes open dialogue for militaries to enhance cooperation and better respond to common security challenges in more concrete and practical ways.

Co-hosted by the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) and Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF), the conference is taking place in the sultanate for the first time from yesterday till November 6.

China made its debut at the conference, joining Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, France, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom and Tonga.

Initiated in 1998, the conference serves as an annual gathering for top military leaders to interact closely and discuss matters relating to defence and security cooperation.

The Brunei Times