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Chiefs of ASEAN defense forces want peace in South China Sea

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero joined nine counterparts from member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in expressing the importance of maintaining and promoting peace and security in the South China Sea.

In the joint statement issued after the  15th ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM)  held in Singapore on March 8, ASEAN top military heads stressed the need to exercise caution in the disputed region.

It reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea.

The statement pointed to the need “to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may complicate the situation.”

It also added the importance of pursuing a peaceful resolution of disputes by international law.

The  ACDFIM serves as the biggest avenue for interaction among heads of militaries from ASEAN member states where regional issues such as terrorism, sea disputes, and disaster preparedness and response, among others are discussed.

The heads of defense forces also noted the framework “Resilience, Response, Recovery” as a means to build up a regional capability to deter and prevent terrorist attacks as well as in coordinating “ASEAN’s responses to address on-going threats and recover from any terrorist attacks.”

Regarding humanitarian assistance and disaster response, the military chiefs agreed to work on the “operationalization of mechanisms to enhance ASEAN responses to natural disasters, such as the ASEAN Military Ready Group (AMRG) on HADR based on principles of sovereignty and consensus-based decision-making.”#  With a report from the Philippine News Agency