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During the second ASEAN-Japan Defense Ministers’ Informal Meeting, Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada announced the “Vientiane Vision” and unveiled plans for closer security collaboration between Tokyo and the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during a visit to Laos on 16 November. Japan seeks to advance defence cooperation with its neighbours through cooperation, support, and assistance focused on promoting the rule of law and strengthening maritime security.
Inada announced a comprehensive package of collaborative measures, including aims to secure the thorough observance of the maritime and aeronautical law, as well as to promote the capacity building for the military of each ASEAN nation and strengthening maritime security in the region. Japan also reinforces its commitment in areas of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations in the region. Tokyo aims to utilize the defence cooperation with ASEAN to counter China’s maritime advancement in the South and East China seas.
Apart from providing defense equipment and technical cooperation, military cooperation is expected to promote joint training and personnel development. New initiatives are also aimed at building cyber-defences and dispose of landmines and unexploded bombs. Inada also emphasized Japan’s commitment to help ASEAN member states enhance their capabilities of maritime intelligence gathering, surveillance, and search and rescue activities, according to the Japanese Defence Ministry.
The ASEAN defence ministers welcomed the Japanese’ plan in its attempt at understanding the diverse needs and problems of ASEAN member states. Japan proposed multi-tiered assistance covering more than one country extended in addition to past bilateral defence cooperation. This will enable member states to share information and technology and boost the capability of ASEAN. In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said that Dr. Ng Eng Hen noted how several key initiatives were impactful in enhancing regional peace and security. These include the establishment of the ADMM-Plus and ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Groups (EWGs), the field training exercises conducted under these EWGs, the implementation of the Direct Communications Link by Brunei, and the recent establishment of the Asean Centre for Military Medicine by Thailand.
Inada said that it is more useful to think about it as an effort to “transparently illustrate the full picture” of defence cooperation with Southeast Asian states. Seminars on international law; capacity-building assistance; defense equipment and technology cooperation; training and exercises; and human resource development and academic exchanges are also expected to fulfill the Vientiane Vision and further deepen its defence ties with ASEAN as a bloc.