The ASPC is a high-level forum in the defense cooperation channel of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), joined by deputy defense ministers from the 27 ARF member states. The ASPC has become an annual event of the ARF since 2004. The forum aims to encourage the participation and cooperation of ARF defense officials in building trust concerning ARF defense issues.

It also aims to open more dialogue and exchange channels among defense officials, diplomats, and military strategists while enhancing understanding among members and heightening the position of the ARF.

The ASPC-17 included three sessions focusing on sharing positions on regional and global situations and defense policies, enhancing connection between the ARF and the ADMM+ (ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus), and promoting defense cooperation within the ARF framework.

Deputy Defense Minister Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh chairing the event

At the meeting, participants appreciated Vietnam’s organization of the ASPC-17 in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic. They highly valued the multi-lateral role of the ASPC in particular and that of the ARF in general in fostering trust among regional countries. The central role of ASEAN was also highlighted.

Stressing that the COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge to the world regardless of the rich or the poor, the participants agreed that no country could deal with it single-handedly. However, they also held that member countries should not look down on other challenges like terrorism, maritime security, nuclear issues, to name but a few. Opinions at the online event highly appreciated the spirit of solidarity, cooperation, and responsibility towards the international community as an efficient tool in response to common security threats, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants expressed their concern over unilateral acts that harm regional security and stability and welcomed the Statement of the Chairman of the 36th ASEAN Summit. The statement highlighted the importance of the maintenance of peace, stability, maritime and aviation security in the East Sea (South China Sea), making it a sea of peace, prosperity and stability. In the statement, member leaders also stressed the importance of the full and effective observation of the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea, or South China Sea (DOC), and the building of the Code of Conduct in the East Sea in line with the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS 1982).

Closing the event, Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh stressed that the ASPC-17 is a manifestation of the theme of the ASEAN Year 2020 “Cohesive and responsive” when the COVID-19 pandemic has caused temporary difficulties to organizing face-to-face meetings as well as ASEAN activities.

On behalf of the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense, Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh thanked the delegates for their support and active participation in the video conference and believed that the contents exchanged at the conference would help promote cooperation in the ARF in general and defense cooperation in the ARF in particular.

Translated by Huu Duong