Sultan’s ‘hotline’ suggestion to cool sea tension welcomed
Aziz Idris & Siti Hajar

THE defence relationship between Asean and China has reached a high note, according to Brunei’s 7th Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Chairman, Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, Minister of Energy at the Prime Minister’s Office, which should come as a relief to those involved in a dispute with China on South China Sea.

Following the Third Informal Asean-China Military Leaders’ Meeting on Tuesday, Pehin Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin said the meeting had “nothing else to offer except promoting peace and stability”.

“Everyone was at ease,” said the Chairman in describing the meeting.

China welcomed peaceful suggestions particularly in establishing a ‘hotline’ that was put forward by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during a press conference at the recent 22nd Asean Summit.

The monarch believes that an open line of communication will aid in avoiding simple misunderstandings.

Expressing confidence that the defence meeting outcome was a “step forward” for the Asean-China relationship especially in the field of defence, the Chairman also said aggressive force in the military as per popular belief is not always necessarily the case but rather “is the other way around”.

Defence relationships are “more accom-modative” in making efforts towards understanding different sides, he added.

As he shared his ADMM experiences, which started in 2006, the past seven years, he said, have witnessed significant progress in matters of military cooperation through the increase of dialogue sessions, meetings as well as discussions and noted that his counterparts including from China also echoed the same sentiments.

Historically, the relationship between Asean and China in terms of securing peace and stability gained momentum in October 2003 in Bali with China agreeing to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia, which was considered as a significant contribution to the stature of the TAC as the Code of Conduct for inter-state relations in the region.

Furthermore, China is also the first Nuclear Weapon State (NWS) that has expressed its intentions to accede to the protocol to the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone.

On non-traditional security, meanwhile, Asean and China signed a Joint Declaration of Asean in China in the Field of Non-Traditional Security Issues in 2002 followed by the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Field of Non-Traditional Security issues in 2004 and a renewal of this memorandum was signed in 2009, which will expire next year.

In a related matter, the minister also revealed that Brunei will be the co-host together with New Zealand for the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group (EWG) on Maritime Security meeting slated for October. This is hoped to improve maritime cooperation amid sea disputes that threaten regional stability.

As a former Naval Officer, Pehin Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin has urged to give the declaration on the Code of Conduct (COC) in South China Sea a “chance” amidst overlapping claims from claimant states.

Asean defence ministers have tasked all officials and military experts from all member states to continue to bring forward a positive momentum and work actively with China as the way forward towards the early conclusion of the COC in the South China Sea on the basis of consensus, added the minister. - Borneo Bulletin (9 May 2013)