Minister calls for stronger ASEAN cohesion to respond to external factors hinh anh 1Vietnamese Defence Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich speaks at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Retreat in Hanoi on February 19 (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – ASEAN still has to face a number of challenges, and to cope with them, the association should continue enhancing intra-bloc cohesion to create consensus and collective strength to stay responsive to external factors, Defence Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich has said.

The Vietnamese minister made the remark while addressing the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Retreat (ADMM Retreat) in Hanoi on February 19.

The event, attended by officials of ASEAN countries and Secretary-General of the bloc Lim Jock Hoi, aimed to set up orientations for ASEAN cooperation in 2020 and prepare for the ADMM and ADMM Plus later this year. Participants also issued a joint statement on defence cooperation against disease outbreaks.

Speaking at the meeting, Minister Lich said since its first edition held in Malaysia in 2006, the ADMM has increasingly established itself as an effective cooperation and dialogue mechanism on strategy, defence and security issues at the defence ministerial level. It has also formed a foundation for promoting substantive cooperation initiatives in multiple spheres, especially non-traditional security issues relevant to military medicine, humanitarian aid and disaster relief, thereby helping to build trust and deepen mutual understanding among countries.

This is also a basis for creating new defence dialogue and cooperation mechanisms between ASEAN and partners, with the ADMM Plus and ADMM playing the central role, he noted.

The official held that ASEAN still has to face a number of challenges, including superpowers’ competition in the region, challenges related to marine security like the East Sea issue, and non-traditional security problems.

He added the outbreak and fast spread of the acute respiratory disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have posed a common challenge to the whole region and the world. 

Aside from well-founded concerns about the seriousness of COVID-19, the spread of unverified information about this disease on social networks has also triggered negative response and anxiety in the public. False information on social media has also become a challenge that countries must join hands to deal with, according to him.

Minister Lich affirmed Vietnam’s sense of responsibility towards effectively responding to COVID-19 to ensure health security for the meeting and other activities during 2020, when the country holds the ASEAN chairmanship.

As chair of the ASEAN Centre of Military Medicine Board of Directors in 2020, Vietnam suggested the member countries organise a disease outbreak response drill, he said, adding that Brunei and Australia, as co-chairs of the ADMM-Plus Experts' Working Group on Military Medicine during 2020-2023, are encouraged to include the response to disease outbreaks in field exercises in the working group’s three-year working programme.

Vietnam also called for the partners in the ADMM Plus mechanism to enhance cooperation in raising the response capacity of ASEAN countries’ military medicine forces, especially in responding to disease outbreaks, the minister said./.