Singapore– With the threat of terrorism in the high seas looming large in the busy Malacca andSingapore straits, thetime has come for the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) to stop talking and get going over the issue of maritime security.
ARF should move beyond dialogue and work towards conducting joint exercises, Singapore Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean told 170 senior officials from the 24-member grouping on March 2.
Since the ARF was set up in 1994, the forum has already gone beyond the simple exchange of views on security issues to a critical examination of common problems. However, it has yet to address emerging maritime security concerns, such as terrorism at sea.
Mr Teo noted that the Five Power Defence Arrangements and the Western Naval Symposium, which bring together military forces from over 20 countries, now include exercises which deal with new maritime security threats.
“In this context, it would be useful for the ARF member countries to move beyond dialogue on maritime security and work towards conducting an ARF maritime security exercise in the near future,” Mr Teo said at the seminar on Regional Cooperation in Maritime Security.
The ARF is the only multilateral security framework of its kind serving the Asia-Pacific region. It brings together Asean members and countries with interest in security matters inNorth-east Asia,South-east AsiaandOceania.
However, Mr Teo said,any move to boost maritime security must be governed by three principles: The primary responsibility for security of the waterway lies with the littoral states; all stakeholders, including other countries, international organisations and the shipping community, have a role to play; and any cooperation should develop on the basis of consultation and in accordance with international law.
* ARF states ‘should stage joint drills’ (The Straits Times, March 3)