Australia — Intervention at the Inaugural ASEAN-Plus Defence Ministers’ Meeting

Mr Chair­man, Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al, Min­is­te­r­i­al col­leagues.
I thank the Gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of Viet­nam for host­ing this inau­gur­al Meet­ing and con­grat­u­late the peo­ple of Hanoi on its 1000th anniver­sary.

ASEAN was estab­lished in 1967 to accel­er­ate eco­nom­ic growth, social progress and cul­tur­al devel­op­ment, and pro­mote peace and sta­bil­i­ty in our region.

Aus­tralia has long sup­port­ed ASEAN and its relat­ed forums. 

Aus­tralia has long sup­port­ed the objec­tives of eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty and peace and sta­bil­i­ty in our region. 

Aus­tralia became ASEAN’s first dia­logue part­ner in 1974, and we are very pleased to have been invit­ed, along with sev­en oth­er ASEAN dia­logue part­ners, to be an inau­gur­al mem­ber of the ASEAN-Plus Defence Min­is­ters’ Meeting.

The cre­ation of the ASEAN-Plus Defence Min­sters’ Meet­ing – which includes the mem­ber­ship of the East Asia Sum­mit and the Unit­ed States and Rus­sia – means the region has tak­en a most sig­nif­i­cant step towards meet­ing its peace and secu­ri­ty challenges.

Mr Chair­man, Aus­tralia believes that ASEAN-Plus Defence Min­is­ters should take the broad view of what secu­ri­ty means in the mod­ern day.

This needs to include not just tra­di­tion­al secu­ri­ty chal­lenges, but new and emerg­ing non-tra­di­tion­al secu­ri­ty chal­lenges – like ter­ror­ism and dis­as­ter relief – which give rise to new chal­lenges for nations and regions alike. 

Aus­tralia is com­mit­ted to address­ing all these secu­ri­ty chal­lenges, draw­ing upon all ele­ments of nation­al pow­er, in coop­er­a­tion and part­ner­ship with our friends and neigh­bours through this forum.

Mar­itime Security

The estab­lish­ment of the ASEAN –Plus Defence Min­is­ters’ Meet­ing offers real oppor­tu­ni­ties for prac­ti­cal coop­er­a­tion. As a mar­itime nation, Aus­tralia is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in the need and the poten­tial for region­al coop­er­a­tion in mar­itime security.

For many of us here, our nation­al secu­ri­ty is close­ly linked to mar­itime secu­ri­ty. As well, our nation­al pros­per­i­ty depends on the secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty of the oceans, seas and straits. 

Eight of Australia’s top ten trad­ing part­ners sit around this table today. All rely on mar­itime trade for both nation­al well-being and the col­lec­tive sta­bil­i­ty of our region. As well, it is in our col­lec­tive inter­est to look at ways through which we can coop­er­ate and coor­di­nate in using our mar­itime resources to respond to the all-too-fre­quent require­ments of human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief. Mov­ing peo­ple and relief sup­plies quick­ly in response to con­tin­gen­cies, such as Aus­tralia has recent­ly done in Pak­istan, will con­tin­ue to be a task crit­i­cal to our region.

Just as, for exam­ple, will con­tin­ue coop­er­a­tion in coun­ter­ing piracy.

As well, in our region and beyond there are a range of unre­solved ter­ri­to­r­i­al dis­putes, includ­ing mar­itime dis­putes, whether in the South Chi­na Sea or else­where.
Where these occur, Aus­tralia wants to see these issues resolved ami­ca­bly and peace­ful­ly between the par­ties con­cerned in accor­dance with inter­na­tion­al law, and in a way which ensures region­al sta­bil­i­ty. Region­al diplo­ma­cy can often assist in such ben­e­fi­cial outcomes.

Aus­tralia regards the pro­posed ASEAN Code of Con­duct as a good start­ing point in this respect.

Mr Chair­man, this forum can con­tribute to greater prac­ti­cal mar­itime coop­er­a­tion and under­stand­ing, fos­ter­ing a pos­i­tive and con­struc­tive dia­logue and find­ing solu­tions to mar­itime chal­lenges as they emerge.

This is why Aus­tralia has indi­cat­ed its will­ing­ness to co-chair the Expert Work­ing Group on Mar­itime Security.


Mr Chair­man, ter­ror­ism remains an issue of great con­cern to Aus­tralia and to our region. Over 100 Aus­tralians and many more from our region have been killed by ter­ror­ists in attacks over the last decade. 

We have made progress. Great strides have been tak­en in our region to com­bat the threat of ter­ror­ism. For exam­ple, Indone­sia, the Philip­pines, Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore have made great strides in com­bat­ing the extrem­ist Islamist group known as Jemaah Islamiyah. 

This has made the region a safer place for all of us.

But we can­not be com­pla­cent. As last year’s dead­ly attacks in Jakar­ta showed, ter­ror­ists remain resilient and adapt­able. Even small groups can inflict great harm. 

Ear­li­er this year Aus­tralia released a Counter-Ter­ror­ism White Paper, set­ting out our approach to com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism, both domes­ti­cal­ly and inter­na­tion­al­ly. Region­al coop­er­a­tion is crit­i­cal to both the nation­al and inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty response. 

This forum has great poten­tial to sup­port our approach to coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism. The shar­ing of infor­ma­tion enables us to coor­di­nate the pro­tec­tion of our cit­i­zens, build­ing links and rela­tion­ships we can draw upon when pre­vent­ing, or respond­ing to attacks. 

Most impor­tant­ly, this forum can be part of the vital work of build­ing a flex­i­ble, resilient and mutu­al­ly-sup­port­ive region­al com­mu­ni­ty com­mit­ted to peace, sta­bil­i­ty and tol­er­ance. Peace­keep­ing

Mr Chair­man, Aus­tralia also high­lights the oppor­tu­ni­ty to great­ly increase our coop­er­a­tion in the field of peacekeeping. 

The nations around this table are increas­ing­ly con­tribut­ing sig­nif­i­cant­ly to Unit­ed Nations peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions around the world – Brunei, Cam­bo­dia, Chi­na, India, Indone­sia and Korea all have troops com­mit­ted to the Unit­ed Nations Inter­im Force in Lebanon, while India, Japan, Korea, the Philip­pines and the US have com­mit­ted troops to the Unit­ed Nations mis­sion in Haiti.

As part of our broad­er sup­port to the Unit­ed Nations, Aus­tralia has a long-stand­ing and proud tra­di­tion of sup­port­ing peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions where we are able. I can­not fore­see a less­en­ing need to sup­port the Unit­ed Nations’ oper­a­tions into the future. In recent times, Aus­tralia has also helped to build and facil­i­tate peace­keep­ing capac­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ty among nations in our own region.

The ASEAN-Plus Defence Min­is­ters’ Meet­ing presents a time­ly oppor­tu­ni­ty to share our expe­ri­ences and lessons in this field, to devel­op coor­di­nat­ed region­al respons­es to emerg­ing crises and to explore how we can sup­port each oth­er as we con­tribute to these impor­tant missions. 

In the last two years, Aus­tralia has worked close­ly with Malaysia in par­tic­u­lar to help build the region’s peace­keep­ing capac­i­ty – an effort we are com­mit­ted to continuing.

Con­clud­ing Remarks

Mr Chair­man, the estab­lish­ment of this most impor­tant region­al insti­tu­tion pro­vides an oppor­tu­ni­ty to move our region­al secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion beyond human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter relief. It allows us to coop­er­a­tive­ly tack­le the emerg­ing peace, sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty chal­lenges that will inevitably arise in the years to come.

The ASEAN-Plus Defence Min­is­ters’ Meet­ing has a crit­i­cal role to play in that coop­er­a­tion. Aus­tralia is both hon­oured and pleased to be a part of this his­toric meet­ing, inau­gu­rat­ing this impor­tant peace and secu­ri­ty forum.

Thank you. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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