He made the proposal while chairing the teleconferenced ASEAN Defence Senior Officials’ Meeting (ADSOM), during which participants discussed the bloc’s cooperation in COVID-19 prevention and control, shared the experience of ASEAN militaries in the task, devised cooperative measures for dealing with future epidemics, exchanged viewpoints on the global and regional situation amid the coronavirus outbreak and in the post-COVID-19 period, and spoke about directions for ASEAN defence cooperation in the time ahead.
Mr. Vinh told the teleconference that he highly values the rapid and timely response from the ASEAN Centre of Military Medicine (ACMM), as it organised an online table-top exercise (TTX) on COVID-19 response that met all member states’ needs and also attracted attention from partner countries.
It is necessary to encourage ASEAN connectivity with ASEAN nations and other partners in the time to come, increase the sharing of military medicine experience in responding to epidemics, and consider upgrading the ACMM website to a common portal where member nations can exchange experience and good practice, he noted.
He also proposed that Brunei and Australia, which are co-chairing the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Plus Experts’ Working Group on Military Medicine between 2020 and 2023, turn the TTX into an annual activity carried out by the working group and the ACMM.
Vietnam is ready to host the first TTX to connect joint efforts by the two co-chairing countries and the ACMM, Vinh stated.
Officials at the meeting shared a view that the online ADSOM was a suitable occasion for member countries to share the experience of defence ministries in contributing to their respective governments’ actions against the COVID-19 pandemic.Vinh said that when the coronavirus first broke out, Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defence actively joined Government efforts to prevent and control the disease, such as using military bases as quarantine facilities, disinfecting COVID-19 clusters, developing test kits, and monitoring border areas.
The Ministry has also been actively boosting bilateral cooperation with Laos, Cambodia, China, Russia, Myanmar, and Cuba to exchange experience and assist each other in this regard, he explained.
Participants at the meeting said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected political and diplomatic relations between countries around the world. Given this context, the ADMM Retreat in Hanoi last February issued a joint statement on defence cooperation against disease outbreaks, in which defence ministers expressed their resolve to remain united to overcome the pandemic for the sake of the ASEAN people.
Mr. Vinh also pointed out that despite the threats caused by COVID-19, security hotspots keep appearing around the world and risking conflict. Particularly, new and more complex developments have occurred in the East Sea recently. If relevant parties do not remain calm, exercise self-restraint, or enhance cooperation to address disagreements, tensions could escalate and change the nature of disputes, which would not benefit regional peace and stability, he emphasised.
Valuing the efforts of defence ministries to join other sectors to bolster ASEAN’s collective capability in responding to COVID-19, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN Hoang Anh Tuan expressed his belief that the bloc will keep the region safe in the face of COVID-19 while remaining resilient to factors causing instability./.