|Under-Secretary of Defense Flournoy to visit Malaysia|
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Defense & Security Commitee members will meet Tuesday, April 20th at 9:30 AM DC Time in the Council Offices to discuss priorities for the upcoming year. To attend in person or request dial-in information, contact Anthony Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Under-Secretary of Defense
According to a statement from the US embassy, Malaysia is her first stop on a visit which also includes a stop in Singapore.
"Ms Flournoy's visit is the latest in a series of visits by high-level officials of the Obama administration to Malaysia, to discuss bilateral issues and regional security, and to reaffirm the United States' commitment to engagement with Malaysia and the region," it said.
During her visit, Flournoy is scheduled to meet senior-level officials on a number of bilateral, regional and global security issues.
The China-ASEAN Defense and Security Dialogue concluded in Beijing on March 31, 2010. “The Dialogue will play a positive role in promoting China-ASEAN defense and security cooperation,” said Guan Youfei, deputy director-general of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Chinese Ministry of National Defense.
Guan Youfei said that the positive role was mainly embodied in three aspects. Firstly, the Dialogue enhanced the understanding and mutual trust in defense field between China and ASEAN member states. On the basis of the two China-ASEAN Senior Defense Scholars’ Dialogues in the past, this 2010 Dialogue increased its participants and invited defense officials from policy-making departments. Scholars, experts and defense officials had in-depth discussions during the Dialogue and enhanced mutual understanding and trust between them.
Secondly, China and ASEAN reached certain consensus on the judgment of regional security situation and threats in this Dialogue. Participants all agreed that intense adversarial relationship did not exist between China and ASEAN member states, and regarded the non-traditional security threats as the main threats confronted by the regional security. The consensus laid a common cognitive basis for deepening China-ASEAN security cooperation.
Thirdly, the Dialogue expressed the general will of China and ASEAN to further intensify the security cooperation. With the active official participation, this Dialogue has got a breakthrough in the idea exchange and policy discussion. Representatives from the ASEAN member states expressed their strong will to deepen the cooperation with China in such fields as disaster relief and anti-pirate, and work out effective measures and preplans together with China.
Faced with non-traditional security challenges, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) needed to co-operate closely to tackle terrorism, piracy, climate change and epidemics, said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
He was speaking while receiving delegates to the 7th ASEAN Chiefs of Defence Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM-7), which was held in Ha Noi yesterday.
Dung highly valued the outcome of the meeting, saying that its success would be an important contribution to the building of an ASEAN community with the three major pillars of political security, economic security and cultural and social security.
Results achieved at the meeting would create the foundation for fostering co-operation between armed forces among ASEAN member countries, he said.
Dung added that apart from implementing regional co-operation based on agreements reached at the meeting, member countries also needed to develop co-operation with international partners
The success of the ACDFIM-7, the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting and the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting would practically contribute to regional and international security and peace, he said.
On behalf of leaders of ASEAN defence forces, the Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, Major General Haji Aminudin Ishan said that the outcome of the ACDFIM-7 would be a solid basis for rapid development in regional defence co-operation.
Defence chiefs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Ha Noi yesterday to discuss a range of issues, including new security threats to the region.
Addressing the ACDFIM-7,Viet Nam People's Army Chief of General Staff, Senior Lieutenant-General Nguyen Khac Nghien said new security issues such as the impact of global warning and international terrorism were threatening peace and stability in the region.
"While there is peace across the region, new security threats have emerged that threaten peace, stability and security in individual ASEAN countries as well as the region as a whole," said Nghien.
"There are threats posed by collusion between radical groups in the region and international terrorism, as well as threats stemming from severe natural catastrophes and the spread of diseases as a result of climate change.
"We are also confronting challenges in maritime, food and energy security."
The event is one of 13 meetings being held bythe Ministry of Defence during 2010, and comes as Viet Nam takes its turn to head ASEAN this year. The series of meetings aim to boost effective co-operation among regional armies in dealing with new security challenges.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called on ASEAN to boost military co-operation within itself, as well as with outside partners, to cope with non-traditional security challenges, for common development.
The PM made the appeal while receiving in Hanoi on March 25 delegates to the 7th ASEAN Chief of Defence Forces Informal Meeting (ACDFIM-7), which was held earlier in Hanoi the same day.
The Vietnamese government leader praised the results of the conference, describing them as active contributions to the building of an ASEAN Community in 2015.
He emphasised that on the way towards building an ASEAN Community, Southeast Asia is facing non-traditional and trans-national security challenges, ranging from terrorist threats, piracy and disease to the impacts of climate change. No one nation can solve these threats alone – they can only be effectively coped with through close co-operation and coordination among regional nations and the international community.
Armed forces from ASEAN countries need to explore ways to handle terrorist threats more efficiently and effectively, a Malaysian official said on Friday.
This initiative required drastic approaches in terms of planning and follow-up actions that comprised cooperation in investigation, training and capacity building, Malaysian Armed Force (MAF) chief Azizan Ariffin said in Malacca.
MALINDO LATGABMA DARSASA 7AB/2010, the joint military exercise between Malaysia and Indonesia, was officially opened in the state of Malacca Friday morning by the general.
Speaking to the audience at the opening ceremony, Azizan said that with the existing expertise, assets and experience, the armed forces were able to pool their efforts together to minimize terrorist threats in the region.
"No matter how powerful the armed forces are, they cannot face the threat from the terrorist groups that have well-established network operating within and outside a country alone.
"Although we already have the multilateral mechanism tasked to combat terrorism in place, we must always be reminded that terrorists nowadays are more professional, cunning and daring," stressed Azizan.
Noting that South East Asia was also caught in security threat, Azizan said the region required armed forces that were more flexible, responsive and always on high alert.
The general also said that violent threat had changed the geostrategic landscape in the region, adding that non-traditional security threat, including international violence, existed in the region.
Therefore, the related armed forces were not only responsible for managing conflicts between countries but also required to acquire high professionalism to deal with any arising conflicts and crises, said Azizan.
He also said that military operations aimed at combating violence should reflect the revolution in the military affairs and the dimension of information war.
South East Asia also saw a dramatic increase between 2005 and 2009 with Malaysia ramping up its arms imports by 722 percent, Singapore 146 percent and Indonesia 84 percent.
The increase in arms imports to Singapore made the island country the first member of ASEAN to make SIPRI's list of top 10 biggest arms importers since the end of the Vietnam war, giving the nation seventh place overall.
"The current wave of South East Asian acquisitions could destabilise the region, jeopardising decades of peace," said SIPRI Asia expert Siemon Wezeman.
Vietnam has also been busy building up its military capabilities, ordering submarines and long-range combat aircraft in 2009.
Like Singapore, Algeria made it into the list of top ten biggest arms importers for the first time with the ninth place.
The United States kept its position as the world's biggest arms exporter, accounting for 30 percent of global volume. The Asia Pacific region took in 39 percent of US arms exports followed by the Middle East with 36 percent.
n fact, Secretary Gates' basic message of 2009 was that "on the horizon" issues received too much priority, and today's wars did not receive enough Department of Defense (DoD) focus. This QDR illustrates that Gates has fixed the "imbalance" by insisting that the Pentagon's requirements and budgetary processes must not ignore the near term and only focus on the future. But, this focus on "the wars we have" should not be interpreted as somehow downplaying conflicts the United States wants to prevent. The QDR does not suggest that deterring conflict in Asia, for example, is a lower priority because of on-going wars. To the contrary, the QDR explains that the notion of balance also means that the United States must be able to cope with problems in more than one region of the world at a time. In Asia that means deterring or preventing state-on-state conflict.
Asia does have a role in today's conflicts-dealing with al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The QDR calls this the "broader war," which is apparently the latest attempt to rebrand the war on terrorism. For Asia, the U.S. relationship with Pakistan is now considered of "enduring" importance, as is the generally successful collaboration in dealing with terrorists in Southeast Asia.
U.S. friends and allies in Asia should be reassured that although prevailing in today's conflicts is central to U.S. strategy, the QDR is also at pains to recognize the central importance of the "...system of alliances, partnerships, and multinational institutions that our country has helped build and sustain for more than sixty years." The QDR is quite explicit in stating that the U.S. possesses the military capability to "...deter, defend against, and defeat aggression by potentially hostile nation-states. This capability is fundamental to the nation's ability to protect its interests and provide security in key regions."
This very explicit endorsement of the importance of U.S. military presence in East Asia is a significant signal to Asia that the U.S. has no intention of withdrawing from Asia in the face of growing Chinese military capability. Over the last 18 months or so, there have been a number of
commentaries regarding China's offshore military strategy for dealing with Taiwan or defending itself from attack by the sea. Termed "anti-access" or "area-denial," the basic idea is for China to have adequate military capability to defeat U.S. military power in East Asia and keep reinforcements at arms length-in other words, to deny the U.S. access to East Asia in the case of conflict.
The United States and Indonesia are scheduled to conduct a joint military exercise dubbed "Cope West 10" at the Halim Perdanakusuma Air Base in eastern Jakarta, beginning on Monday (April 19) to April 23, 2010. "Three US Air Force C-130 Hercules and approximately 77 airmen from the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan, and one C-130 from the Indonesia Air Force are scheduled to participate in exercise Cope West 10," Indonesia's Antara news agency cited a press statement from the US embassy here as saying on Monday.
Now, contrary to U.S. human rights law, the covert counter-terrorism and intelligence unit that many here say already views itself as being above the law is about to go into business with the U.S. government.
The Obama administration has begun talks with Indonesian military officials to establish a special training program for Kopassus troops despite legislation known as the Leahy Law.
Passed in 1997, the measure bars the U.S. from training foreign militaries facing accusations of human rights abuses unless officials attempt to bring all wrongdoers to justice.
Although details of the training remain unclear, Indonesian officials hint that they include bringing Kopassus officers to the United States for nonlethal counter-terrorism training.
Analysts say the administration's plans are part of President Obama's agenda to engage, rather than isolate, troubled nations or their militaries.
U.S. officials view the 100-member Kopassus force as a key ally in fighting Islamic extremist groups that have struck scores of times in recent years, including bombings in Bali and at two foreign-owned hotels in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, last year.
For the United States, the new military ties would help strengthen its position in the region as China's influence rises. Kopassus officers recently visited the U.S., and Obama hopes to complete the training arrangement when he visits Indonesia in June, analysts say.
"It's just a matter of time, [maybe] a couple of months," former Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono told the Jakarta Post about Washington's intentions of lifting the training ban.
he United States is looking to break a taboo and train an elite Indonesian force linked to past abuses, as President Barack Obama courts the world's largest Muslim-majority nation with a visit.
With its moderate form of Islam and democratization since the 1990s, Indonesia is increasingly seen in Washington as an ideal partner. Obama spent part of his childhood in Jakarta, giving him a propitious personal connection.
Ahead of Obama's trip next week, top officers from Kopassus -- a military unit that focuses on counter-insurgency and intelligence -- visited Washington to discuss a resumption of training, people with knowledge of the talks said.
The United States cut off support for Kopassus under the so-called Leahy Amendment in 1997, which prohibited training to foreign military units involved in human rights abuses.
Ernie Bower, Southeast Asia director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank, said military ties were "absolutely fundamental" if the Obama administration was serious about transforming ties with Indonesia.
"Indonesia was going to be the India of the Bush administration -- a country with which they move to a whole new place because they understand it and put a real focus on it," Bower said, referring to former US president George W. Bush's drive to end decades of mistrust with New Delhi.
The talks with Indonesia come amid unease in some circles in Washington about the strong role of the military in the two historic US allies in Southeast Asia -- the Philippines and Thailand.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that the United States was discussing a re-engagement with Kopassus "that's in accordance with our laws, our values and advances our interests."
Indonesia has won praise for cracking down on Islamist militants behind a string of deadly attacks and at the core of the fight have been the heavily armed black-clad officers of its anti-terrorism unit -- Detachment 88.
A symbol of improved security cooperation with Western nations, the unit has gained somewhat of a cult status among many Indonesians, particularly after live television images of dramatic sieges ending in a hail of gunfire.
"They've been pretty good on the investigative side and intelligence side and being able to crack down on these rings," said Ken Conboy, a Jakarta-based security analyst and author.
Police have succeeded in killing or capturing hundreds of suspected militants in recent years. Last week, Detachment 88 officers shot dead Dulmatin, a wanted militant with a $10 million bounty on his head who was tracked to a Jakarta Internet cafe.
The unit has been monitoring Islamist networks for potential threats ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama next week. It has also joined security training exercises at key strategic sites such as five-star hotels and airports.
Detachment 88 was established after the 2002 Bali bombings carried out by militant network Jemaah Islamiah, which firmly placed Indonesia as a frontline state in the U.S.-led "war on terror."
But the Western funding of an anti-terrorism unit in the world's most populous Muslim nation can be sensitive. There have been reports of U.S. intelligence officers in Jakarta helping tap cell phones and reading SMS text messages of Indonesian civilians.
A U.S. embassy spokesman in Jakarta declined to comment, but a U.S. government document showed the unit had received technical support, training and equipment under the State Department's Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program since 2003.
An Indonesian official, who spoke on condition on anonymity, confirmed the unit got Australian and U.S. help in advanced wiretapping technology, and also some British and French aid.
Indonesia and the United States are likely to discuss further security cooperation during Obama's visit. Washington has been considering whether to lift a ban on military training for Indonesia's notorious special forces unit, known as Kopassus.
The joint military exercise between Malaysia and Indonesia is important in forging close cooperation between the two countries and even between the Asean member countries and the region.
Defence Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the experiences of
the two countries in carrying out joint exercises played an important role in real situations.
"The close cooperation will be continued and we will frequently exchange experiences with the objective of tackling terrorism," he told reporters at a media conference after observing the `Malindo Darsasa Exercise 7AB/2010` at a hotel, here Thursday.
Also present at the media conference were Indonesian Defence Minister, Prof Dr Ir Purnomo Yusgiantoro, and Malaysian Armed Forces Chief Gen Azizan Ariffin and the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) Chief Gen Djoko Santoso.
The exercise this time, with the theme tackling the threat of terrorism, had incorporated the three special groups from the three services of the armed forces of both countries, namely the Commandos, the Air Force and the Navy Commandos, involving 1,241 personnel from the Malaysian armed forces and 452 personnel from the Indonesian armed forces.
The closing ceremony was performed by the Indonesian Armed Forces Chief and the next exercise is expected to be held in Indonesia in 2012.
Malaysia has said it would strictly enforce a new law to curb trafficking of nuclear weapon components after being linked to illegal supply of sensitive technology to Iran and Libya.
"Malaysia is committed towards ensuring that nuclear materials and technologies do not fall into the wrong hands," said Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was in Washington to attend a landmark nuclear security summit.
The Malaysian parliament about two weeks ago passed the Strategic Trade Bill, which provides for prison terms of at least five years and fines of millions of dollars for those illegally bringing in or exporting material that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction.
Najib said that establishing the legal framework was "only the first step."
"The Malaysian government therefore intends to see to it that this legislation is strictly enforced and that our law-enforcement agencies are provided with the necessary resources to do so," he told a forum on US-Malaysia relations organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The new law follows the government's denial late last year of involvement in the illegal 2008 export of nuclear weapons to Iran although it confirmed the involvement of one of its nationals.
In addition, a Sri Lankan businessman living in Malaysia was jailed in 2004 for allegedly supplying nuclear weapon components to Libya and linked to a nuclear black market run by Pakistan's disgraced scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Khan had admitted passing nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea in a confession in February 2004, placing him in the thick of a global atomic black market.
Najib said that the possibility that terrorists could gain control of nuclear weapons posed "a fundamental threat" to all, irrespective of which nation is targeted.
He said that the two-day nuclear summit called by President Barack Obama and which ended Tuesday "has emphasised the need to confront that threat with all the means at our disposal."
Najib also said the United States and Malaysia could explore ways to further expand collaboration in securing Southeast Asia's maritime environment.
The United States Navy has been sharing expertise with the maritime forces of Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand through annual exercises.
The Malaysian Defence, Security and Enforcement Council has been formed to coordinate production of local products related to defence, security and enforcement.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the setting up of the council, chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, was approved by the cabinet last April 2.
"The setting up of the council is meant to enhance the standard of the industries in the affected fields," he told reporters after the Malaysian Defence Industry Council meeting here Monday.
He said the presence of the council would strengthen understanding between the government and private companies which produced the defence and security products, hence would avoid competition.
Ahmad Zahid said the specialisation of companies in producing one product could make them become experts in the production of their respective products.
"With such an understanding, local companies will not only be able to market their products in the Asean region, but also the world," he added.
The Defence Ministry wants local companies which receive contracts from the ministry to be important contributors to the country's defence industry rather than be mere commission receivers.
Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said some local companies now were not only able to make defence products but could also provide after-sales service in repair and maintenance of defence assets.
"In fact, they are also capable of using local materials in creating the local products compared to 20 to 30 years ago where they mainly relied on receiving commission from the government," he said after officially opening the Zetro Centre of Excellence building, the maintenance centre for defence assets belonging to Zetro Aerospace Corporation, here, Thursday.
He said with the transfer of technology from abroad, some of these companies were able to set up local training centrs that were of international standard.
"With the existence of such companies, Malaysia will move forward to become an Asean defence hub in the future with the setting up of the Asean Defence Industry Council."
He said a meeting on the setting up of the council board would be held in May in Hanoi, Vietnam to promote cooperation between the defence industry and their product users in the Asean region.
"We need to start collaborating with the other Asean countries to make Malaysia the region's defence hub."
He also said that by using the expertise and products of local companies in the defence sector, the government was able to save cost up to RM3.5 billion each year.
Malaysia is keen to extend its partnership with US-based companies specialising in defence products, transfer of technology and training, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Tuesday.
Malaysia was interested to explore business partnership and was not content with being a supplier of traditional products, he said during a dialogue here today with US defence-based companies which are members of the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce.
"We informed them that Malaysia and the Asean region should not be regarded as a hub for the distribution of products which are not used by the American business community," he told reporters after the dialogue.
According to Ahmad Zahid, Sungkai in Perak is an ideal hub for the production of defence products.
He called on US and European defence-based companies to relocate some of their manufacturing plants and research and development facilities to Perak.
Elite forces from all three branches of the armed forces and police are being mobilised to carry out operations to remove red-shirt demonstrators from the Rajprasong intersection in Bangkok.
The rules of engagement are modelled on an emergency plan after 2003 when the Thai embassy and businesses run by Thai firms in Phnom Penh were burnt down by a rowdy mob.
Thailand was reportedly ready to go to war with Cambodia, with combat units readied and F-16 fighters put on standby for possible aerial attacks.
On Saturday evening, Army commander General Anupong Paochinda called a meeting of military commandants, the chief of staff and the acting police commander to discuss operational readiness of all units involved.
The meeting agreed that the military would no longer tolerate armed terrorists blending in with red-shirt mobs in Bangkok.
Army units to be used are capable of "special operations". They include Task Force 90 - a heli-borne infantry assault unit, the 31 Infantry Regiment and red-bereted Army special operations forces. The Navy would dispatch their US-trained SEAL commandos and the Marines Force Recon strike force.
The Air Force will rely on their special operations commandos while the police would dispatch 191 SWAT commandos, anti-terrorism Arintharaj Force and paratroopers.
A joint intelligence report concluded that the armed men were recruited from three groups of people: separatists in the South, mercenaries from neighbouring countries, and paramilitary men trained by active officers allied with the red shirts.
Whatever sources they are from, the prime objective of the coming operations is to deal with the "armed third force", coupled with red-shirt masses travelling to Bangkok from Monday to Wednesday.
General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who first formed the Rangers as a counter-communist force in 1978, has according to at least one academic study  maintained influence over the elite unit in his civilian capacity and has deployed its soldiers for political purposes in the past. The Rangers are perhaps the least accountable of the Thai military's units, embodied in a culture that allows soldiers to come and go without question from their main camp in Korat province.
One government official says they are now quietly probing the current status of Chavalit's connections with the Rangers. Chavalit is now chairman of the Thaksin-aligned opposition Puea Thai party and is tipped to run as the party's prime ministerial candidate at the next polls. He has said publicly that Abhisit should take full responsibility for the April 10 deaths.
Other insiders believe that the Supreme Command has played a role in leaking information to the UDD from the government'ssecurity command center, including confidential details of themilitary's plans and formations for dispersing the UDD. They note that Supreme Commander General Songkitti Jaggabatra has been a dissenting voice in top-level meetings held to devise strategies for dealing with the UDD.
A government official says the matter is under "internal investigation "; Songkitti could not be reached for this article.
It's unclear, however, just how deep intra-military distrust runs. The earlier consensus among military analysts and observers was that Anupong had since the 2006 coup consolidated his power through a series of reshuffles and demotions that aimed specifically at purging remnant support for Thaksin from leadership positions in the armed forces .
Some military insiders, including former spy chief and behind-the-scenes 2006 coup leader, Squadron Leader Prasong Soonsiri, had in recent months made presentations to diplomats that there was still strong pro-Thaksin sentiment at certain top levels of the armed forces. Some now believe Thaksin has capitalized on mounting resentment to the disproportionate promotion of former Queen's Guards, including Anupong and Prayuth, at recent reshuffles.
That may partially explain why Anupong and Prayuth relied on known loyalists outside of Bangkok, including the Prachinburi province-based 2nd Infantry Division, to play the lead role in last Saturday's crowd control operation. One military insider said that "trust issues" were a factor in the decision to deploy the Bangkok-based 1st Infantry Division only on the operation's perimeter and to keep the Bangkok-based 2nd and 4th Cavalry units in the barracks. Nor were the special forces deployed, a unit known peeved since 2007 for having its leaders sidelined by Anupong after playing a pivotal role in the coup that ousted Thaksin.
It's uncertain how senior soldiers would react to any order from Prayuth to quit their commands, though one military insider suggests any aggressive action to lockdown top officers perceived to be compromised could spark a "civil war". Some believe that this week's mysterious botched attack on an electricity generating plant providing power to Bangkok was meant to send a signal to Prayuth that any internal coup would be met with strong and potentially debilitating resistance.
One diplomat suggests that the top brass should instead aim to publicly "name and shame" officers with hard evidence proving they leaked information or participated in operations that endangered and took other soldiers' lives rather than launch another coup. The envoy expressed concerns that the military could be emboldened to act more forcefully by the tepid domestic and international response to last Saturday's bloodbath.
Yet passions are known to be running high in Prayuth's camp after the Queen's Guard soldiers who were expected to make up the core of his power base upon becoming army commander were targeted, killed and maimed in a military-style assault.
It's thus unclear whether the military under Prayuth's leadership would countenance the prospect of elections that could hand Chavalit the premiership and by proxy give Thaksin sway over future military policies and reshuffles. But even a "half coup" would be highly unpopular and could well push Thailand to a tipping point.