Wednesday 26 September 2012


The ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) is the highest defence mechanism within ASEAN. The annual ADMM facilitates the ASEAN defence ministers to discuss and exchange views on current defence and security issues and challenges faced in the region. The ADMM aims to promote mutual trust and confidence through greater understanding of defence and security challenges as well as enhancement of transparency and openness.

The ADMM-Plus process is a tool to engage ASEAN Dialogue Partners in dialogue and cooperation on defence and security matters. At the Inaugural ADMM-Plus meeting in 2010, the Defence Ministers agreed on five areas of practical cooperation to pursue under this new mechanism. These areas are:
maritime security, 
disaster management, 
peacekeeping operations and 
military medicine. 
To facilitate cooperation on these areas, five Experts' Working Groups (EWGs) are established.  Practical cooperation is now moving apace on the five priority areas. 2
Addressing the first ADMM-Plus Defence Minister AK Antony today called for adoption of 'cooperative approaches' for ensuring the security of sea-lanes in the Asia-Pacific Region. 3
The 2nd ADMM-Plus will be convened in Brunei Darussalam in October 2013. 2

ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) . Bringing together the ministers of defence of all ASEAN member states and eight of the association’s dialogue partners, this forum is poised to become a key driver of confidence building in Southeast Asia, including, crucially, the South China Sea. 

The experience of the annual ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)  first convened in 2006 provides a hopeful example in this respect. This forum has served ASEAN member states to strengthen cooperation in dealing with non-traditional security threats. They have issued joint concept papers on the use of military capabilities in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, military-civil society cooperation on non-traditional security issues, and linkages with non-ASEAN partners. Even though the principles advanced in these concept papers are yet to be fully operationalized, a working group of defence senior officials that meets several times a year ensures that the annual ADMM  is not a mere talk shop.
In fact, the ADDM-Plus  developed from the ADDM . Recognizing that traditional security threats could not be dealt with in the absence of China and the US, the ADDM  soon started to work on creating a broader and more inclusive forum. More importantly, during its first meeting in Ha Noi in October 2010  it became clear that ADMM-Plus  would not be a new ASEAN Regional Forum , instead serving to openly discuss specific issues of concern to participating countries. Besides delving on common threats such as terrorism, piracy or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, participating countries discussed the situation in the South China Sea as well. Given that this is the biggest source of discord between China and several ASEAN countries with overlapping territorial claims, the mere fact that it was discussed with the US was an important step forward. 
The ADMM-Plus  framework serves a dual purpose for Washington and Beijing. It allows both of them to be central players in the most important security mechanism of a region in which both of them have a deep interest. Neither China nor the US wants to be left without a seat in the discussion table on issues such as piracy in the Malacca Strait, the exploration of energy resources in the South China Sea, the role of Indonesia in regional affairs, or the future of Myanmar. A confluence of national interest and prestige underpin the interest that both countries have in being involved in Southeast Asian affairs. Therefore, it is unlikely that any of them will retreat from the region any time soon. The ADMM-Plus  is a cost-effective way to remain involved.
In addition, the ADMM-Plus  is the latest in a network of institutions bringing American and Chinese officials together in dealing with issues of mutual concern. The degree of mutual confidence between Washington and Beijing has been growing as relations have become more institutionalized. The full-blown war predicted by many analysts in the 1990s is unthinkable today. The trade wars forecasted in the 2000s have yet to materialize as well. In contrast, China and the US are working together on issues such as the North Korean nuclear conundrum, climate change negotiations or managing to the global financial crisis.
Given the lack of effectiveness of the ASEAN Regional Forum , there is a pressing need to deal with regional security disagreements on an institutionalized and regular basis. The ADMM-Plus  could help to reduce tensions between China, the US and ASEAN countries, bringing an era of greater understanding and cooperation in Southeast Asia.

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