ASEAN defence ministers pose for a photo at the 11th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting in the Philippines (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The defence ministers of China, Japan and the US expressed their countries’ support for ASEAN’s central role during meetings with their ASEAN counterparts in the Philippines on October 23.

At a meeting with the ASEAN ministers, part of the 11th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM-11), Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan welcomed ASEAN countries’ sharing of experience with his country and their work to build a closer community.

As the region is facing numerous challenges and opportunities, cooperation among ASEAN countries as well as between the group and China is crucial for coping with those challenges, including terrorism, he said, adding that China is ready to assist the bloc in fighting terrorism.

Vietnamese Defence Minister Ngo Xuan Lich considered the meeting between the ASEAN and Chinese defence ministers necessary for them to discuss issues of shared concern, especially in defence and military, so as to help build and maintain trust, devise measures to deal with challenges, and enhance ASEAN’s solidarity for the sake of ASEAN and China’s common interests.

Vietnam appreciates China’s support for ASEAN’s central role as well as its active contribution to building ASEAN-led defence cooperation mechanisms such as the ADMM-Plus and the ASEAN Regional Forum, he noted.

Lich asked both sides to consider expanding the ASEAN Direct Communication Infrastructure, which was put into use this year, to the bloc’s partner countries, including China, so that they can boost information exchange and consultations on issues of shared concern.

ASEAN and China recently built a framework for a Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea, which is a positive stride, and they should work towards an effective and legally binding COC. To do that, each side needs to cooperate sincerely, the Vietnamese minister said.

The ADMM-11 joint statement underscored the value of promoting people-to-people exchange among defence agencies, which Lich described as a very effective way to strengthen trust and win-win cooperation.

[ASEAN Defence Ministers reaffirm importance of peace in East Sea]

He added Vietnam and China held border friendship exchanges with the most recent held in September.

At another meeting, Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera also voiced his country’s support for ASEAN’s central role, noting that Japan wants to make use of opportunities to foster cooperation with the grouping. It also pledges to help enhance the bloc’s capacity, particularly in terms of technology, and will step up relations based on the Vientiane Vision.

The ASEAN ministers highlighted that ASEAN-Japan cooperation has been expanded in multiple sectors. They valued Japan’s support for ASEAN and hoped that through cooperation, the country will further contribute to peace, stability and security in the region.

Minister Lich noted ASEAN appreciated Japan’s support for keeping its central role in the region. He said the two sides should maintain meetings to reinforce defence ties.

Also respecting the bloc’s central role in the region’s peace and stability, US Defence Secretary James Mattis shared his country’s viewpoints on counter-terrorism and marine security, stressing that the US backs the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and the conclusion of the COC.

The ASEAN ministers said they want the US to continue contributing to maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea along with the fight against terrorism.

Speaking at the meeting, Minister Lich said security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation at sea, particularly the East Sea, is among key problems facing regional countries. All countries in the region need to overcome differences to reach consensus on the basis of international law and the reached commitments.

He asked the US to advocate the peaceful settlement of East Sea disputes based on international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and with full respect for diplomatic and legal processes.

He also applauded the US’s enhancement of cooperation with ASEAN in counter-terrorism, marine security, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief, which are cooperation fields within the framework of the ADMM-Plus. Lich added that effective cooperation in these areas will help deepen the Vietnam-US comprehensive partnership.

On the sidelines of the ADMM-11, Minister Lich also met with his Lao counterpart Chansamon Channhalat.-VNA