The ASEAN Defence Ministers held their 11th Meeting in the Philippines this week and agreed to act together with partners to counter terrorism and violent extremism in the region. The Ministers met with their counterparts from Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States to strengthen their cooperation on defense matters.
Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein warned that setbacks the Islamic State has suffered in the Middle East could mean that the terrorists increasingly focus on Southeast Asia.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana officially announced the end of fighting in Marawi City, saying that the Philippines had defeated terrorism. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, participating on behalf of the U.S., praised the Philippines for liberating Marawi saying the very tough fight had sent a very strong message to terrorists.
Mattis reaffirmed his commitment to allies across the region. To improve counter-terrorism cooperation among ASEAN members, he proposed a table-top exercise to discuss lessons learned from the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS campaign as well as a workshop on regional terrorist threats at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.
Mattis highlighted maritime security as a natural area for deeper cooperation between the U.S. and ASEAN and proposed to hold a new maritime exercise with ASEAN partners in 2018. He also wants to host a maritime security dialogue featuring regional navies and maritime law enforcement.
Mattis also stressed the importance of international cooperation to pressure North Korea on denuclearization and reaffirmed the U.S.’ commitment to freedom of navigation.
The Philippines acted as ASEAN Chair this year, the 50th anniversary of ASEAN and the 40th anniversary of U.S.-ASEAN relations. Singapore will be Chair next year.