ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus Eight – the ASEAN-centered Asia Pacific Security Structure

Updated On: Jun 28, 2010

There is a promising new addition to the Asia-Pacific’s security architecture - the ASEAN Defence Ministers-Plus Eight (ADMM+8) meeting.

This new arrangement does more than simply adding to the existing “alphabet soup” of institutions. The ADMM-Plus Eight brings to the table American and Russian defence ministers alongside their ASEAN+6 counterparts and aims to deal with security uncertainty associated with the tectonic shifts currently underway in geopolitics.

In a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean endorsed the new framework as having potential to bridge dialogue as well as practical cooperation.

At the 4th ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) in Hanoi on May 11, the Ministers signed a joint declaration on the establishment of the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM)-Plus Eight, a new regional security architecture that would include ASEAN members and their eight Asia-Pacific counterparts, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States. The ADMM-Plus Eight meetings will convene every three years, starting October 2010 in Hanoi, under the chairmanship of General Phung Quang Thanh, the Vietnamese Defence Minister.

The original ADMM meeting, consisting exclusively of the ASEAN members, was established in 2006, and has met annually since then. Its objectives are for the ministers to discuss views on regional defense and security challenges, as well as to promote mutual trust and transparency among ASEAN members.

However, as the Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean pointed out in his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue 2010, the ADMM is no longer sufficient to deal with issues in the increasingly interdependent world. The mounting volume of inter-Asian trade, the shift in strategic and economic weights towards China and India, and the security uncertainty associated with such shifts all contribute to the need for a more relevant and coherent multilateral structure that could help countries in South East Asia and broader Asia Pacific region address old and new security challenges. The ADMM-Plus Eight is thus created as an inclusive ASEAN-centered architecture to serve such purpose.

According to DPM Teo, ASEAN will serve as a suitable central structure that would bring together members from across the Asia Pacific.

First of all, ASEAN is “neutral, consultative, and open to engagement.” Secondly, the ASEAN way of conflict resolution, which is through consensus-building based on consultations and mutual respect, will ensure mutual trust and avoid conflicts. Finally, the many areas of shared interests among ASEAN members, such as economic interdependence, access to strategic sea lanes, counter-proliferation, supply chain security, disaster relief, and counter terrorism, will provide the essential foundation for the cooperative paradigm.  

Although North Korea will be absent from the first ADMM-Plus Eight meeting this October, Myanmar will be there, and so will the United States and China, whose senior military officers have not talked since January, when the US announced an arms package for Taiwan. If the meeting proves to be more than a mere talkshop, we may see countries overcome their intra-regional disputes and suspicions, and agree on productive cooperation that would terminate some of the current political dead ends in the region.

Asean +8 take off [The Straits Times, 6 June 2010]
Optimism defies gloom at Asia security meeting [Financial Times, 6 June 2010]
Speech by Mr. Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, at Shangri-La Dialogue 2010, 6 June 2010, 1:00pm at Shangri-La [SG Press Center, 6 June 2010]

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