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Thayer ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting an Assessment

Thayer ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting an Assessment

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
An assessment of the just concluded 4th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting in Hanoi that approved a dialogue process with eight counterpart defence ministers from the region known in shorthand as ASEAN Plus or ASEAN + 8.
An assessment of the just concluded 4th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting in Hanoi that approved a dialogue process with eight counterpart defence ministers from the region known in shorthand as ASEAN Plus or ASEAN + 8.

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Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on May 12, 2010
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05/04/2011

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Background Briefing:ASEAN Defence MinistersMeeting: An AssessmentCarlyle A. ThayerMay 12, 2010
[client name deleted]Question: Can you provide an assessment of the recently concluded 4
th
ASEANDefence Ministers Meeting? In particular can you offer any insights why the meetingended after just one day and did not run the scheduled three days? Please provideyour view on what is the ADMM Plus and how important is it? Finally, will the SouthChina Sea issue be discussed at the inaugural ADMM Plus meeting to be held laterthis year?ANSWER: On the 11
th
of May (0952 hrs), Voice of Vietnam reported that the 4
th
 ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) “is taking place in Hanoi from May 10‐13. Another broadcast by Voice of Vietnam on the same day (1243 hrs) mentionedthat it would be a “three‐day meeting.” Vietnam’s Defence Minister hosted bilateralmeetings with his counterparts and the ASEAN Deputy Secretary‐General on May10
th
. The ADMM met on May 11
th
and was reported to have closed at a pressconference held that day.
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
 
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There is no explanation why the ADMM did not extend until May 12
th
or May 13
th
.The three‐day period may have included official arrival and departure ceremonies. Itis unclear whether an informal retreat was planned or even part of the program. Theagenda for the 4
th
ADMM was relatively straight forward and the key items fordiscussion had been thoroughly reviewed by senior officials (ASEAN Defence SeniorOfficials Meeting) and chiefs of the defence forces in meetings held prior to theADMM.In 2003, ASEAN has set itself the goal of creating anASEAN Community by 2020(since brought forward to2015) based on three pillars:political‐security, economicand socio‐cultural. TheASEAN Charter, which cameinto force in 2008, gave each of these pillars an institutionalform by creating three ministerial‐level councils, including an ASEAN Political‐Security Council. ASEAN defence ministers were the last ministerial group to formamong ASEAN ministers.The ADMM is “the highest ministerial defence and security consultative andcooperative mechanism for discussion of regional security issues” (Joint Declarationof the ASEAN Defence Ministers On Strengthening ASEAN Defence Cooperation forStability and Development of the Region, May 11, 2010).This ASEAN Political‐Security Councilwill incorporate the annual ASEANDefence Ministers Meeting whichbegan in May 2006. The Protocol tothe ADMM Concept Paper states“the ADMM
may 
discuss practicalcooperation in traditional and non‐traditional security concerns;transnational and transboundarysecurity challenges includingmaritime security; disaster relief andemergency response; andpeacekeeping, post‐conflict peace‐building and humanitarian assistance amongother areas of cooperation.”In other words, the ADMM is almost entirely focused on non‐traditional securitythreats. This is clear in the adoption of three Concept Papers in 2009. One dealt withthe use of military assets in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The seconddealt with the relationship between defence establishments and civil societyorganizations in dealing with emergencies. The third dealt with the principles of ADMM Plus membership.
 
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The just concluded 4
th
ADMM approved two documents, ADMM‐Plus: Configurationand Composition [also referred to in unofficial reports as ADMM‐Plus: Structure andParticipants] and ADMM‐Plus: Modalities and Procedures [also referred to inunofficial reports as ADMM‐Plus: Protocol and Procedures]. All decisions of theADMM have to be approved by the ASEAN Summit first. This will take place later inthe year, in October, when ASEAN will hold its next summit in Hanoi.On the South China Sea: The ADMM three‐year work program, adopted in November2007, includes as one of its items, “contribute to the full implementation of theDeclaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and support theadoption of a regional code of conduct in the South China Sea.” The DOC/SouthChina Sea was not on the formal ADMM agenda as it was not discussed previously atthe ASEAN Chiefs of Defence Force Informal Meeting or the subsequent ASEANDefence Senior Officials Meeting. Defence Minister General Phung Quang Thanh,nevertheless had an opportunity to raise Vietnam’s concerns at the end of the 4
th
 ADMM meeting when ministers held a dialogue on regional security issues. GeneralThanh also could have availed himself of the opportunity to give a voluntary briefingor raising East Sea issues at an informal retreat of defence ministers.
 
Minister Thanh raisedVietnam’s concerns aboutthe East Sea in November2009 in informal bilateralmeetings on the sidelines of the 3
rd
ASEAN defenceministers meeting. Hepressed for maritimecooperation involvingThailand, Malaysia,Singapore, Indonesia andBrunei specifically on theissue of handling the case of fishermen who strayed intoanother country’s territorialwaters. Minister Thanhargued that countries shouldnot use force or destroy fishing craft.Since the implementation of the DOC was discussed by an ASEAN and China WorkingGroup in Hanoi on 17
th
April this issue is now in the hands of non‐defence officials. Atthe moment the ADMM has not yet reached a stage to take decisions involvingoutside parties such as China. Any such decision would have to be discussed at chiefsof defence force and senior official levels.The ADMM was unlikely to discuss the South China Sea prior to setting up theADMM‐Plus process. Any such discussion could spook China in the same way whenthe ASEAN Regional Forum was set up. China initially feared that such a multilateralgrouping would gang up against it on the South China Sea.

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