Asean must step up to tackle security threats like terrorism, chemical weapons: Ng Eng Hen

KUALA LUMPUR (The Straits Times/ANN) - Countries in the region must continue to work together to deal with pressing threats such as terrorism and chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) weapons, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Monday (April 16).

He was speaking at the 5th Putrajaya Forum in Malaysia, alongside Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu and Philippine Undersecretary for Defence Policy Ricardo David Jr. The forum is held in conjunction with the annual Defence Services Asia Exhibition and Conference (DSA).

"Asean will have to step up to address the security challenges in our region (because) it is to our intimate interest to do so," Dr Ng said in a speech.

He noted that the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting(ADMM)-Plus is the most important defence and security platform for this region. "We must redouble efforts to build its resilience to enhance its relevance," he added.

He flagged three "Cs" Singapore had proposed as areas of focus for ADMM-Plus, which the Republic chairs this year.

One, boost counter-terrorism cooperation through tapping militaries' niche capabilities to build resilience against attacks as well as respond to and recover from incidents.

Two, strengthen regional capability against CBR threats, and

Three, establish practical confidence-building measures and codes for unplanned encounters in the air as well as at sea, to reduce the risk of miscalculations and de-escalate tensions.

He noted that trade disputes have historically precipitated armed conflicts. And strategic rivalry for trade and security in Asia may impact small countries like Singapore and Malaysia that will be put into the uncomfortable position of having to choose sides.

"With more capable militaries in Asia, any conflict can be devastating in scale and impact," he said.

He also noted that most institutions promoting collaboration to reduce confrontation in the region are "relatively few and young", and will "need time to address the structural weakness in our regional security architecture".

"If we can work together to avoid the perils, then this region can continue to enjoy stability and progress for another generation," he added.

Dr Ng also met Mr Hishammuddin, and Singapore's Defence Ministry said both men noted the good progress made in bilateral relations. "The ministers agreed to enhance the defence relationship through more military interactions at all levels," the ministry said.

"They also discussed regional security issues, and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen practical cooperation through multilateral fora such as the ADMM, ADMM-Plus and Shangri-La Dialogue to address regional threats," it added.

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