"It is essential for our military leaders to build rapport, understanding and confidence through interactions at various levels...to build personal ties which can prove very useful (in) de-escalating tensions and preventing miscalculations."
Minster for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen made this point at the 8th Beijing Xiangshan Forum on 25 Oct, where he spoke in the first plenary session titled International security governance: New ideas and approaches.
He was part of a panel that included Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Hanhui, Vietnamese Minister of National Defence General (GEN) Ngo Xuan Lich, Serbian Minister of Defense Aleksandar Vulin and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea's Vice-Minister of the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces Colonel-General Kim Hyong-ryong.
Noting that the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM)-Plus members have recently agreed to meet every year, Dr Ng highlighted the increase in engagements among militaries to conduct exercises.
He added: "Since its inception in 2010, the ADMM-Plus has conducted seven field training exercises that brought together more than 12,000 military personnel." The 12th ADMM and 5th ADMM-Plus were recently held in Singapore on 19 and 20 Oct respectively.
"These positive developments should give us all encouragement to deal with the more difficult bilateral or multilateral issues, which we must not paper over, thinking that they will go away or solve themselves."
During his speech, Dr Ng also urged China to “continue and step up its engagement, as it does here at this forum, ADMM-Plus and the Shangri-La Dialogue”.
He noted that "as a rising power, China's development will benefit itself, the region and the world," but added that the wellbeing of China and the world are co-dependent.
"Even as large and venerable as China is, it needs the world, as much as the world needs China… (China) cannot thrive in isolation."
The Beijing Xiangshan Forum is co-organised by the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Military Science and the China Institute for International Strategic Studies. Other topics discussed during the annual forum included the role of militaries in global governance, maritime security cooperation and international terrorist threats and countermeasures.
Dr Ng is on a five-day visit to China from 22 to 26 Oct. He visited the ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise on 23 Oct, and called on Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense GEN Wei Fenghe at Bayi Building on 24 Oct.