Defense chiefs of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states expressed concern over the continuous Chinese activities in the South China Sea.
During the 15th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM), some ASEAN defense ministers expressed their concern over the China Coast Guard law, which was passed in January.
The new Chinese naval law authorized China’s coast guard to use “all necessary means” to stop or prevent threats from foreign vessels. The law also allowed boarding and inspection of foreign vessels in “waters claimed by China,” and to demolish other countries’ structures built on reefs along disputed territories.
According to Manila’s defense department, the defense chiefs pointed out the ambiguous application of the law in the South China Sea, where other ASEAN member states like Indonesia and Vietnam also have claims.
The defense officials also stressed the importance of freedom of navigation and the early release of the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. The Code of Conduct is expected to straighten out disputes in some contested features in the South China Sea.
The officials also discussed the military coup in Myanmar and the developments in the Indo-Pacific region, among others.
During the same program, at least nine initiatives and documents were approved by the defense officials. These agreements will be adopted by individual member states in their defense strategies.
Among the approved agreements is the Bandar Seri Begawan Declaration, which reaffirms the defense officials’ commitment to continuous defense and security practical cooperation in the region.
The officials also approved the post-implementation review of the agreement on the annualization and continuous conduct of the ADMM-Plus.
The ADMM is the highest defense cooperative meeting among ASEAN defense chiefs being held annually.
Meanwhile, the ADMM-Plus is the ASEAN defense chiefs’ platform to meet with the defense ministers of eight other countries, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and the United States. – Rappler.com