South China Sea likely to headline ASEAN defence meet

New Delhi, Nov 16 : Defence Ministers from India, the US, China and 10 ASEAN member countries are meeting in Thailand to discuss “sustainable security” against the backdrop of concerns in the international community over the lack of free navigational movement in South China Sea because of Beijing’s military assertiveness in the maritime region.

India will be represented by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus). Rajnath Singh left for Bangkok on Saturday to attend the meet to be held from November 16-19.

“Leaving for Bangkok, Thailand to attend the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and the ADMM-Plus meetings. These Ministerial-level meetings are important in the regional security architecture as they help in promoting strategic dialogue between ASEAN and its partners,” Singh tweeted before leaving for Bangkok.

The ADMM-Plus is a platform for ASEAN member nations and their eight partners to strengthen cooperation in security and defence with the objective of stability and development in the region.

It aims to build strategies for the benefit of ASEAN member countries in capacity-building so as to effectively address security challenges. The ADMM-Plus also aims to promote mutual trust and confidence among the members and partners through dialogues and transparency.

According to Hong-Kong based English daily South China Morning Post, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper and Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe will also attend the ADMM-Plus meeting. The US and China are dialogue partners of the 10-member regional framework of nations.

“Fears about China’s increasingly bellicose actions in the South China Sea and the ‘truancy’ of senior US leaders from the recent Southeast Asian diplomatic events will be among the key talking points at this weekend’s meeting of regional defence chiefs,” reported the English daily quoting analysts.

The US has time and again reiterated its stance of keeping the South China Sea free from any regional domination in order to ensure continuous and peaceful maritime trade between continents.

It has also expressed its willingness in the past to partner with any nation in the Indian Ocean Region to keep at bay China’s attempts at increasing its military presence in the area.

It is also likely that Vietnam, which is embroiled in territorial disputes with China, will up the ante against the latter at the meeting.

/IANS

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