The ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Retreat (ADMM Retreat) officially opened in Hanoi on Wednesday morning, under the chair of Vietnamese Defence Minister Ngo Xuan Lich.
Vietnamese defence minister Ngô Xuân Lịch (centre) made the opening speech at the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Retreat held in Hà Nội on Wednesday.
In his opening remarks, Minister Lịch thanked ASEAN member countries for supporting Việt Nam in performing its role as chair of ASEAN. He expressed his belief that the defence-military cooperation channel will continue to contribute to the building of the ASEAN Community in 2020, bringing a better life for people in ASEAN.
Lịch stressed that the ADMM Retreat is taking place amid developments of security challenges, especially the outbreak and rapid spread of the acute respiratory disease caused by coronavirus (COVID-19).
As ASEAN Military Medicine Chair, Việt Nam proposed that member countries consider organising drills to cope with outbreaks and spread of disease in 2020, he said.
He went on to say that Brunei and Australia, as co-chairs of the ADMM-Plus Experts' Working Group on Military Medicine during 2020-2023, are encouraged to include the response to disease outbreaks in field exercises during the three-year working programme.
Việt Nam also called for partner countries in the ADMM Plus mechanism to enhance their cooperation in raising ASEAN countries’ capacity in military medicine, especially for responding to disease outbreaks, the minister said.
Minister Lịch expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the working session of heads of ADSOM delegations on Tuesday, which agreed to issue a joint statement on defence cooperation against disease outbreaks. He described the joint statement as specific evidence of the unity, resolve and proactiveness of ASEAN when facing common security challenges.
According to the minister, the ADMM Retreat, which is the first high-level event during Việt Nam’s ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020, is very important in outlining the orientation for ASEAN defence cooperation in 2020 as well as in preparing for ADMM and ADMM Plus at the end of the year.
Lịch urged delegates to engage in straightforward and open discussions on security challenges faced by the region and the world, particularly ASEAN, and on assessment of ADMM, ADMM+ cooperative mechanisms, as well as directions and contents for cooperation in the future.
The ASEAN defence ministers’ meeting later issued a joint statement on defence cooperation to deal with the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, keeping in mind WHO’s declaration of the disease to be a “public health emergency of international concern” that threatens the well-being of the region’s people and development.
The statement noted the “effective efforts” by ASEAN member countries as well as China in dealing with the disease, reaffirming the region’s defence ministers’ commitments to promote defence cooperation and information sharing in line with ASEAN unity and solidarity.
The defence ministers’ statement also praised Việt Nam’s thorough preparations for ASEAN 2020, including taking preventive measures against COVID-19 to make sure that the meetings could be held safely.
The ministers said they would enhance practical cooperation among ASEAN defence establishments to organise information and best practice sharing activities, and with our external partners, bilaterally or multilaterally including considering to conduct a tabletop exercise within the framework of the ASEAN Centre of Military Medicine, which Việt Nam is ready to host at the earliest opportunity in dealing with COVID-19.
They will make use of the Network of ASEAN Chemical, Biological and Radiological Defence Experts to enhance professional linkages, and promote scientific cooperation to manage infectious disease outbreaks.
The joint statement promised proactive cooperation with other relevant sectoral bodies of ASEAN in tackling COVID-19 in the spirit of ASEAN’s solidarity, and with other countries in the region and the world.
The defence ministers pledged to do their part for public health and social cohesion by supporting the efforts of our respective national health authorities as well as utilising ASEAN’s regional health mechanisms for coordination and cooperation in response to this emerging public health threat.
"Impressed and appreciated"
Asked for his assessment of the ASEAN defence ministers’ joint statement on fighting COVID-19, Secretary-General of ASEAN Lim Jock Hoi reiterated several times during an interview with local media that he was “very much impressed and appreciated” the leadership of Việt Nam on this very important issue.
Earlier last Friday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, as ASEAN 2020 Chairman, issued a statement on ASEAN’s collective response to the outbreak, stressing ASEAN’s solidarity and spirit of “cohesive and responsive” community.
The ASEAN Secretary-General said he appreciated how fast the statement was developed and adopted, adding that the defence ministers’ joint statement serves as another indication on how the bloc can work together to address this matter of great concern to people’s health and security.
Regarding Việt Nam’s proposed drills on fighting COVID-19 slated to be held in the near future, the diplomat said that the region has had experience dealing with the SARS outbreak in 2003, adding that all sectors of ASEAN – from health to diplomacy, trade and economy to military – have to work together so that “our people can be looked after and our prosperity maintained.”
ASEAN Secretary General highlights need for unity against COVID-19
ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi meets the media
ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi highlighted the need to stay united and actively respond to the outbreak of the acute respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (COVID-19), in line with the Vietnam ASEAN Chairmanship Year 2020’s theme “Cohesive and Responsive”, during a meeting with the media in Hanoi on February 19.
The meeting took place on the sidelines of the 2020 ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Retreat in Hanoi the same day, which set orientations to cooperation during ASEAN Year 2020 and made preparations for ADMM and ADMM Plus later this year.
Lim lauded the ASEAN Chair’s Statement announced by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and the joint statement by ASEAN defence ministers at the ADMM Retreat as evidence for regional solidarity and joint action against health-related issues, reflecting ASEAN’s support to ensuring healthy environment for citizens.
He expressed his delight that the joint statement, under the direction of Vietnam, was adopted after two days of discussions. Based on that, he hoped that action programmes will be built, especially in health care and medicine.
The armies play an important role in coping with COVID-19 outbreak, notably medical army centres, he said.
About ASEAN member states’ proposal to hold drills in response to the epidemic, Lim said ASEAN had experience in coping with the SARS epidemic in 2003, and suggested reviewing approaches to deal with COVID-19.
ASEAN’s ministries and agencies, including those in medical, defence, diplomatic and economic sectors, should work closely together to ensure citizens’ health and maintain the bloc’s prosperity, he said.— VNS/VNA