The ASEAN Defence Senior Officials Meeting Plus (ADSOM+) in Cambodia on April 26 reached a consensus on a number of ways of improving regional defence and cooperation on matters of security.

The meeting, chaired by General Neang Phat, Secretary of State for the Cambodian Defence Ministry brought together representatives from all 10 ASEAN member countries and eight of its partners. They included Australia , China , India , Japan , New Zealand , the Republic of Korea , Russia and the US .

The Vietnamese delegation was led by Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh, Deputy Minister for National Defence.

At the meeting, the participants agreed to increase the frequency of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+) to every two years instead of every three at present, in the interests of each nation as well as for regional peace and stability.

They highlighted the importance of the ADMM+ to regional security and ASEAN’s partner countries supported the central role the bloc plays in this cooperation mechanism.

When speaking at the meeting, General Vinh stated that, just like other members, Vietnam wants other countries to become more involved in the region in line with the principle of peaceful measures, for the goal of peace, stability and development in the region. However, the cooperation must ensure ASEAN’s central role as well as help strengthen the region’s solidarity and stability.

On regional security, Vietnam’s representative said that the security of the Mekong Rivers’ water is not just an issue for the individual countries that share this vast resource, which include Vietnam, Myanmar, China, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, but is an important issue for the whole region in general.

It is not merely an environmental or economic issue but also a security issue, he added.

“Therefore, we want all the countries involved to take more responsibility for their actions and share the Mekong Rivers water resources and would appreciate the international community taking more interest on this issue and help to address this hidden challenge,” stressed Vinh.

On maritime security, including the East Sea , the participants emphasised the importance of maritime safety and freedom of movement and agreed on the need to solve the East Sea issue peacefully in line with international law. This means abiding by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) and other regional commitments signed by ASEAN countries and their partners.

Agreeing with the other delegates, the head of Vietnam’s delegation stressed that maritime issues in general and the East Sea issue in particular must be solved peacefully in accordance with international laws, including the 1982 UNCLOS and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) signed by ASEAN and China in 2002, advancing towards building a Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea.

“When addressing the East Sea issues, all the concerned parties should abide by international law and respect the interests of other countries in the region and the world and listen to the opinions of the global community,” he said.

He added that he believed that all the countries in the region will find a common ground to step by step solve the East Sea issue, as well as others, to create a more peaceful and prosperous environment.

Vinh also said that over the last few years, Vietnam has made a great deal of effort to ensure peace and stability in the East Sea , both multilaterally and bilaterally. This was confirmed by the agreement made between Vietnam and China which was reached during Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit to China in late 2011.

The agreement has contributed positively to Vietnam and China ’s relationship, while respecting the interests of other ASEAN members and others by adhering to international laws and regional treaties.

On the sidelines of the ADSOM+, the Vietnamese delegation also held bilateral meetings with the Chinese, Japanese and US delegations, on ways of boosting cooperation in 2012./.