Post-ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus Press Conference in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Press Conference

By:  Charles Hagel
Date: Aug. 29, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

ANNOUNCER: For our next proceeding, we would like to invite Colonel Retired Pengiran Dato Azmansham, the permanent secretary of defense policy, for the conduct of the press conference.

COL. PENGIRAN DATO AZMANSHAM: (speaking foreign language) and good afternoon. And a very warm welcome to members of the press, delegates, and ladies and gentlemen.

The proceedings for today's press conference will first start with the chair of the 2nd ADMM-Plus to give his press statement. And this will then followed by the question-and-answer session. And for members of the press, I would appreciate if you could kindly state your name and affiliation before you ask your question.

Please, I will take three questions. The honorable ministers have -- most of them have to leave after this press conference. Their aircraft are already waiting at airports. So please keep your questions short and simple and relevant to the ADMM-Plus meetings.

So members of the press may address your question to the chairman or to the individual defense ministers on the stage. So without further ado, may I invite the honorable chairman of the 2nd ADMM-Plus to give his press statement?

MIN. PEHIN DATO SERI SETIA AWANG HAJI MOHAMMAD YASMIN: Thank you very much. Thank you very much (speaking foreign language) and a very good afternoon.

Members of the press, delegates, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us today. Allow me to share with you the key outcomes of our meeting today. We review our work in the ADMM-Plus. We are pleased with the substantial achievement, especially on the five ADMM-Plus expert working groups, which have successfully forged political cooperation among our defense forces. This is evident with the first-of-its-kind ADMM-Plus Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise held in Brunei Darussalam last June.

In this same spirit, we look forward to the upcoming exercise on maritime security, counterterrorism, and peacekeeping operation. We re-emphasized the strategic importance of the ADMM-Plus and the need to cooperate closer. This is why we decided last year to meet every two years.

We reaffirmed further the principle of ASEAN centrality where ASEAN is the primary driving force in the ADMM-Plus processes. We also reaffirmed our relation to be guided by the fundamental principle enshrined in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, especially the reunification of the threat of the use of force and exercise of self-restraint.

We also re-emphasized our commitment to strengthen defense cooperation in promoting peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region based on the enduring principle of equality, mutual respect, mutual benefit, and respect for the international law.

In doing so, we agree to promote capacity-building through greater engagement and interaction, enhance interoperability through training and joint exercises, and establish mechanism for effective response. We also agreed to encourage -- to establish practical measure to reduce vulnerability to miscalculation and avoid misunderstanding and undesirable incident at sea.

We also agree on the establishment of the ADMM-Plus Expert Working Group on Humanitarian Mine Action and on the transition process of the ADMM-Plus expert working group co-chairmanship. Our senior official will develop work plan and key milestone for the next cycle that begins in April 2014.

We welcome new initiative on promoting capacity-building through HADR Table-Top Exercise and Mine Action Workshop. We also reaffirm the direction of the ASEAN leader during the summit in May to promote synergy between regional mechanism, including that of the ADMM-Plus and ASEAN Regional Forum. We also discussed extensively on the international and regional security and defense issues.

Finally, we look forward to meet again in Malaysia in 2015.

That, ladies and gentlemen, ends my press statement. We will now take a few questions.

COL. PENGIRAN DATO AZMANSHAM: Thank you very much, the Honorable Chairman. Anybody would like to take the first question? Okay, the gentleman with the red notebook -- red notebook, yeah?

Q: Thank you, Moderator. My name is (inaudible) from Xinhua News Agency. And my question goes to Mr. Chang Wanquan, defense minister of China.

Your Excellency, this year marks the 10th anniversary of China-ASEAN strategic partnership, and a China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting is opening in Beijing today. So as defense minister, what's your comment on China-ASEAN relations on security and defense? And what's your comment on the territorial and maritime disputes between China and several ASEAN countries? (speaking foreign language)


CHINESE MINISTER OF DEFENSE CHANG WANQUAN (through translator): Good afternoon, friends from the media. I'm very glad to have this chance to meet so many friends from the media and have the chance to communicate with you.

I would like to respond to your question briefly in the following three points. Cooperation in defense and the security area is an important component of China-ASEAN strategic partnership. In recent years, under the principle of mutual trust, mutual benefit, and a mutual understanding, we have made great achievements in exchange of high-level visits, building of mechanisms, and practical cooperation, thus having played a positive role in realizing common security and comprehensive security of the region. These are for all to see.

It is true that there are disputes between China and some ASEAN countries over territory, sovereignty, and the maritime rights and interests. However, these disputes are by no means the mainstream of regional security situation. These are not the problems between China and ASEAN. ASEAN is not a concerned party. Therefore, these disputes should not and will not undermine the overall relationship between China and ASEAN.

As for the disputes, the Chinese side as always advocates that these disputes should be properly handled by the directly concerned countries. We oppose any actions and statements trying to confuse right and wrong in this regard of historical facts. And we oppose any attempt to internationalize, escalate, or complicate the disputes. We are ready to work together with the ASEAN countries to make active efforts to jointly maintain regional peace and stability.

Thank you.

COL. PENGIRAN DATO AZMANSHAM: Any takers for a second question? The gentleman with the hand's up -- only one hand's up. Okay. Please, sir.

Q: Thank you. Dan De Luce from Agence France-Presse. First, during the conference, did the ASEAN members address the suspected use of chemical weapons in Syria? And is there a consensus on how the international community should respond?

And for the U.S. defense secretary, given Britain's decision to wait for the conclusions of the U.N. inspectors in Syria, is the United States prepared to consider taking military action against Syria without Britain?

And, finally, for the Russian and Chinese ministers, if the U.N. inspectors do find evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, would your governments be open to holding the Syrian government accountable?

Thank you.

COL. PENGIRAN DATO AZMANSHAM: Thank you. Maybe U.S. defense secretary will like to respond, please.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Thank you. As I have said regarding the situation in Syria, the United States is consulting with all of our allies, international community, regarding Syria. And we continue to consult with our allies. And as I think has been made very clear by President Obama -- and I have said it on a number of occasions -- if any action would be taken against Syria, it would be an international collaboration.

Thank you.

MR. PEHIN DATO SERI SETIA AWANG HAJI MOHAMMAD YASMIN: Thank you. I think that -- that -- did that answer your question? Say again? The second question is -- you'd like to respond to that question, sir?

We move on to the next question, please.

COL. PENGIRAN DATO AZMANSHAM: Okay. Next question. Okay, gentleman with the striped tie.

Q: Thank you. I want to ask Mr. Chairman, Brunei's energy minister, sir, we know this conference talked about North Korean --

COL. PENGIRAN DATO AZMANSHAM: Can you state your name and affiliation first? Your name and where you come from?

Q: My -- (inaudible) -- South Korean -- (inaudible) -- and we know this conference talked about North Korean issue, so I want to know, what Korean -- what kind of Korean comments are in the chairman's statement? Thank you.

MR. PEHIN DATO SERI SETIA AWANG HAJI MOHAMMAD YASMIN: Basically, we expressed strong concern on the development of Korean peninsula and we encouraged DPRK to fully comply with its obligation to all the relevant UNSC resolution, the United Nations Security Council resolution. We emphasized for this matter to be dealt in a peaceful manner.

Thank you.

One last question?

COL. PENGIRAN DATO AZMANSHAM: Okay, the chairman's been very kind.

MR. PEHIN DATO SERI SETIA AWANG HAJI MOHAMMAD YASMIN: But not to the chairman. Not to the Chinese defense minister. Not to the U.S. defense minister, because they have done their part. There is another 16 defense ministers here -- (Laughter) -- 15 defense ministers that you can ask. Thank you.

COL. PENGIRAN DATO AZMANSHAM: Okay, the gentleman again on the second row. Can you state your name and where you come from, okay, sir, with the tie?

Q: Hi, Phil Stewart from Reuters. A question to Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Antonov. What are your thoughts as -- as the U.S. appears to be nearing military action on Syria? Thank you.

RUSSIAN DEPUTY MINISTER OF DEFENSE ANATOLY ANTONOV: Russia is consulting with all parties concerned about the situation in Syria. And I hope that the results of this consultation will be constructive, and I hope that we can find a solution which could meet interests of all parties concerned.

I am sure that we have to go along with the international law, and I hope that we have excellent institutions and mechanisms in U.N., as well as -- as I know that consultations are going between ministries of foreign affairs. I'm sure that there is opportunity to find solution.

Moreover, I hope that there will be an opportunity for inspectors to fulfill their duties. And I hope that we can discuss the results together. Thank you.

COL. PENGIRAN DATO AZMANSHAM: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. And we'll see you again hopefully next year in -- next year in Myanmar and 2015 in Malaysia. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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