PANO – At the 7th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) held from May 6th to 8th in Brunei, Vietnam put forward an initiative to form an ADMM+ expert working group on humanitarian mine action. The initiative has been highly appreciated by regional countries and public opinion, and contributed to the success of the meeting.
With the aim to provide more detailed information about the initiative for readers, reporters from the People’s Army Newspaper met and had an interview with Major General Vu Tien Trong, Director of the Defence Institute for International Relations under the Defence Ministry.
Reporter: Could you explain why Vietnam proposed the idea to set up an ADMM+ expert working group on humanitarian mine action?
Major General Vu Tien Trong: Activities to overcome the aftermath of bombs, mines and explosives left by wars are a profound humanitarian issue, as it relates to the real lives of thousands of people.
In fact, although wars and conflicts in the region have been over for many years, the consequences of past wars and conflicts still exist, badly affecting national security, social safety and socio-economic development of regional nations, especially Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The large numbers of bombs, mines and explosives left by wars lying here and there in regional countries are a real threat to the lives and assets of many people of those countries. The contamination of bombs, mines and explosives in ASEAN countries has negative effects on agricultural, aquatic and forestry development, obstructs domestic and international investment, socio-economic development and tourism in these countries. Although this is a non-traditional security issue, it would take regional nations dozens, even hundreds of years to resolve it, as countries suffering the most serious consequences of bombs, mines and explosives, do not have enough resources, techniques and experience to deal with the problems faster.
Meanwhile, the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+) has agreed to focus on cooperation in 5 non-traditional security areas, namely humanitarian assistance and natural disaster relief; maritime security; anti-terror; military medicine; and peacekeeping missions. With the participation of 18 nations, including 10 ASEAN nations, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States, ADDMM+ is a mechanism where the participating nations share experiences and mobilise resources to jointly cope with emerging non-traditional security issues in the region.
Reporter: As far as we know, Vietnam‘s initiative is to form an expert group to boost cooperation in overcoming the aftermath of bombs, mines and explosives left by wars within the ADMM+ cooperation framework. Could you reveal the main contents of cooperation in Vietnam‘s proposal?
Major General Vu Tien Trong: Under the initiative, participating nations will concentrate on 5 areas:
Improving regional awareness of risks and challenges from bombs, mines and explosives left by wars, as well as the international responsibility of nations and the international community as a whole.
Exchanging and sharing experiences in training to improve capacity for overcoming the aftermath of the nations with bombs, mines and explosives left by wars.
Encouraging ADMM+ participating nations and the international community to join the efforts of regional countries with bombs, mines and explosives left by wars in dealing with the problems.
Seeking appropriate measures and ideas to effectively surmount the consequences of bombs, mines and explosives left by wars.
Building a cooperation mechanism among defence and military forces of the ADMM+ member nations and better combining military and civilian efforts to deal with bombs, mines and explosives left by wars.
The scope of cooperation consists of conferences and seminars to exchange and share information and experiences; promoting common understanding and awareness of related issues; considering legal aspects and building a policy mechanism suitable with international law and the laws of nations with contamination of bombs, mines and explosives left by wars in the spirit of honouring independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of such nations; exchanging and supporting experts, technical and professional personnel training; providing technology, equipment, finance for detecting and defusing bombs, mines and explosives left by wars; and assisting victims of bombs and mines to reintegrate into the community.
Reporter: Apart from the initiative, did Vietnam put forward other ideas at ADMM-7?
Major General Vu Tien Trong: At ADMM-7, Vietnamese Defence Minister, General Phung Quang Thanh, head of the Vietnamese defence delegation, also put forward some other ideas aiming to promote cooperation; to maintain maritime security and safety; to prevent possible clashes in the East Sea; to establish hotlines between regional navies; to promote exchanges between forces of ASEAN nations stationed on islets of Truong Sa Archipelago (The Spratlys); and to consider establishing a dialogue mechanism between ASEAN Defence Ministers and their Chinese counterpart.
Especially, General Phung Quang Thanh proposed that the armies of ASEAN nations involved in disputes in the East Sea should try to strictly implement commitments to maintain peace and stability in the East Sea and that the claimants should early sign an agreement on not resorting to the use of force in dealing with territorial disputes and other incidents in the East Sea. This was seen as an important proposal in an effort to increase dialogue, reduce confrontation and avoid clashes, bring benefits to Vietnam and regional nations and shaping a specific law-binding measure to implement commitments, political spirit and conclusions of the 22nd ASEAN Summit on maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea.
From the initiative and proposals, Vietnam wanted to stress dialogues, improve understanding and build confidence, serving as an important basis for cooperation. As a peace-loving nation, Vietnam wishes to boost dialogues and practical cooperation for the sake of peace and stability in the region. Vietnam is ready to cooperate with other nations to settle security issues in the region. Additionally, Vietnam respects and highly values regional defence cooperation, especially ADMM and ADMM+, in which Vietnam participates in an active and responsible manner.
Reporter: How did public opinion assess Vietnam‘s initiative and proposals?
Major General Vu Tien Trong: Vietnam’s initiative on joining common efforts to overcome the aftermath of bombs, mines and explosives left by wars was politically significant, profoundly humane and suitable with the topic of ADMM-7 “Our People and Our Future Together”. Defence Ministers of ASEAN nations passed the initiative and agreed to put forward the initiative for approval at the second ADMM+ to be held in August in Brunei in order to complete the legal basis for its implementation. So far, India has officially announced that it would be ready to cooperate with Vietnam to chair the ADMM+ expert working group on humanitarian mine action when the initiative is approved at the second ADMM+.
Meanwhile, the other proposals were mentioned by regional opinion and the press of regional nations as breakthrough solutions for maintaining peace and stability in the region. After the remarks by Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh at ADMM-7, Singaporean Defence Minister shook his hand and said that his speech was most impressive, frank and constructive with specific solutions, and needed further consideration and deploying in the cooperation framework of ADMM+.
In general, Defence Ministers of ASEAN nations, observers and public opinion highly appreciated the initiative and hoped that Vietnam’s initiative and proposals would be approved and put into effect soon.
Reporter: Thank you very much!
Translated by Thu Nguyen