The defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) vowed on Wednesday to strengthen the bloc's centrality, unity and rules-based order for the benefit of the people in the region, said a joint declaration.
The declaration was released after the 16th ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting (ADMM), which was held in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, under the chair of Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gen. Tea Banh.
"We reaffirm our adherence to the fundamental principles and purposes enshrined in the ASEAN Charter and Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) in strengthening ASEAN centrality and unity and upholding a rules-based regional order anchored in international law for the benefit of the people," the declaration said.
The ministers also reaffirmed the central role of ASEAN as the primary driving force in enhancing defense and security cooperation and confidence building measures with its external partners with the common objective to maintain peace, security and prosperity in an open, transparent and inclusive regional architecture.
They also reiterated joint efforts and commitment to enhancing strategic dialogue and practical defense cooperation, through the ADMM and the ADMM-Plus as the region's key security architecture, in response to non-traditional security challenges, the declaration added.
The ministers also pledged to uphold the principles of ASEAN centrality and respect for the ASEAN principles of non-interference, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and consensus-based decision-making.
They also stressed the importance of continuity and sustainability in ASEAN community building efforts and commitment to further promoting amicable partnerships for peace, stability and development, within ASEAN and with the international community.
Gen. Banh said the presence of ASEAN defense ministers in Cambodia underscored the bloc's commitment to maintaining ASEAN centrality, unity, and cooperation for peace, security and sustainable development in the region.
"ASEAN must stay united to maintain its strength and resilience while the whole region is confronting the pressures of increasing geopolitical competition, transnational crime, terrorism, security and technological challenges, climate change, disasters and epidemics," he said at the meeting.
"We must all be ready to accept those obstacles at all times and try to solve them together based on the spirit of peace, non-discrimination, cooperation, trust and respect for each other," he added.
At the end of the meeting, the ASEAN defense ministers adopted three concept papers -- the Enhancing Cooperation Amongst Defense Forces of ASEAN Member States in Cross Border Pandemic Containment, the Enhancing Support Mechanism for ASEAN Women Peacekeepers, and the Establishment of ASEAN Defense Educational Institutions' Collaboration, according to the declaration.
They also endorsed the Phnom Penh vision on the role of defense institutions in supporting the post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery, it added.
Established in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
According to the declaration, the 17th ADMM will be held in Indonesia next year.