SOUTHEAST Asia’s top defense officials on Sunday reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace and security in the South China Sea.
The Philippines’ Armed Forces Chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero underscored the need for caution in the disputed region during an informal meeting of the Asean’s top defense officials.
In a meeting titled “Strengthening Cooperation, Building Resilience,” the officials highlighted the importance of pursuing a peaceful resolution of the disputes in the area in accordance with international law.
China has reclaimed at least seven islets in the South China Sea and converted them into what has been described as military facilities hampering free navigation in the area.
Chinese coast guard ships also harass Filipinos venturing into the islets and shoals in the area.
Sunday’s meeting reaffirmed “the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea” and “the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation.”
Those who attended the meeting were the military chiefs of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
They cited the need to build up regional capability to prevent terror attacks and the value of building capacity, trust and confidence at a pace comfortable to all through dialogue and military-to-military interaction to deepen cooperative ties.
They agreed to work on mechanisms to enhance Asean’s responses to natural disasters.