Defense & Security Update: U.S.-Thailand Military Relations on an Upward Trend

Defense & Security Update | July 13, 2017
Authors: Jack Myint and Timotheos Tan
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

July 25-27: Philippines Business Mission

July 31: ASEAN Secretariat Business Mission

August 1-3: Indonesia Business Mission

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

U.S.-Thailand Military Relations on an Upward Trend

Thailand and the United States have continued to display ameliorating defense ties, in contrast to the dip in diplomatic relations following Thailand’s military coup 2014. An announcement by Thailand’s army chief Chalermchai Sitthisart on June 29, outlined the approval of a Thai purchase order for four Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters by the U.S. government, is the latest in a series of indications that both parties are seeking ways to improve defense cooperation. According to the U.S. Embassy in Thailand, defense sales since the coup have amounted to approximately US$380 million. The latest Black Hawk sale has implications for both future bilateral and economic relations; whilst it alone constitutes a major defense deal, the Thai defense ministry has made it clear that it is one amongst a longer list of defense procurement goals that the Kingdom is developing in conjunction with Washington.

The presence of U.S. Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris at this year’s Cobra Gold multinational exercises in February was another strong example of positive efforts; Admiral Harris is the most senior U.S. officer to join the drills since the coup. Additionally, both countries made the decision to resume the annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise (CARAT) in 2018, alongside concurrent work on other issues including nuclear security, law enforcement, and irregular migration. Furthermore, in his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in June of this year, as well as in his meeting with Thai Deputy Defense Minister Udomdej Sitabutr, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis expressed the Trump administration’s dedication to expanding military-to-military ties with Thailand and other ASEAN countries, as it seeks to support greater securing in the region via U.S. military capabilities.

Malaysia Seeks to Purchase New Maritime Patrol Aircraft

Malaysia has halted its US$2bil effort to replace its aging combat aircraft, instead opting to push forward plans to upgrade aerial surveillance capabilities in response to a growing threat of Islamic State (IS)-related militancy in the region. Most significantly, the battle in Marawi between IS militants and Filipino security forces has led toward a greater priority being placed on obtaining more capable maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft by 2020.

A source in Malaysia’s Ministry of Defense noted that Kuala Lumpur was strongly considering the acquisition of commercial-based surveillance platforms, in lieu of military options, due to advantages in affordability, likely in response to a defense budget hampered by slow economic growth due to decreasing oil revenues. The defense ministry source specified that the new platforms would need to be larger than existing assets, with a longer range, making specific mention of aircraft built by Lockheed Martin.

Indonesia and Malaysia are currently providing support to the Philippines with patrols along their shared borders in the Sulu Sea, and the fall of the IS stronghold in Mosul is met with fears of a renewed base for the organization to turn to Southeast Asia, as militants return to their home countries from fighting abroad.

U.S.-Philippine Security Cooperation Holding Strong

The United States and the Philippines continue to share a strong security partnership, despite rhetoric from President Rodrigo Duterte espousing a more independent foreign policy. The two countries have recently concluded a coordinated patrol exercise in the Sulu Sea, near the northern Philippine island of Mindanao. In addition, the United States continues to render intelligence-gathering aid to Filipino government efforts to combat the IS-associated Maute Group in Marawi City.

The sea patrol operation involved the crews of the Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) and the Del Pilar Class Frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF 16), working together to practice the detection and deterrence of maritime security threats, including piracy and transnational criminal activity. The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines credits such exercises with strengthening military cooperation between the two countries, demonstrating the United States’ commitment to the security and stability of the region.

This is in stark contrast to previous comments by President Duterte, who announced in China last October that the Philippines would be pursuing a military and economic separation from the United States. However, he followed up with a clarification of his wording, saying that “separation” would not amount to a full severance of diplomatic ties. Furthermore, as observed by Professor Rommel Banlaoi, director of the Philippine-based Center for Intelligence and National Security Studies, Duterte has stopped short of calling for the abrogation of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, putting further into doubt a serious deterioration of bilateral defense relations. Instead, Professor Banlaoi contends that Duterte is more likely striving to decrease the Philippines’ reliance on the U.S., and pursuing a deliberate foreign policy of strategic ambiguity towards China and the United States, in order to increase his diplomatic leverage.

Additionally, in a reassuring move, the U.S. Embassy has also released a statement announcing further cooperation with the Philippines on future initiatives and military exchanges, through routine participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises such as: The “Balikatan”, the Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama Sama; the Southeast Asian Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercises; the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises; and the Asian Defense Ministers’ Meeting.

U.S.-Vietnam Defense Relationship Signals Improvement

In June, the United States Navy announced that the USS Coronado, an Independence-class littoral combat ship (LCS), would be conducting a “technical visit” for an Expeditionary Preventive Maintenance Availability in Vietnam’s Cam Ranh International Seaport. This announcement follows a series of reports of ameliorating U.S.-Vietnam defense relations, which have been improving because of the more extensive and comprehensive partnership initiated under the previous U.S. administration that included exchanges, exercises, and capacity-building in the maritime security domain with Vietnam’s coast guard.

The Cam Ranh port facility, opened in March 2016 with the capability of receiving foreign warships, began conducting maintenance activities for U.S. vessels in September 2016. Earlier in June 2017, it hosted the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain for a “routine technical stop”, which also saw a visit to the vessel by U.S. Senator John McCain as part of a Congressional Delegation visit to Vietnam. During his visit to Vietnam, Senator McCain lauded “the strong symbol of the positive trajectory of the U.S.-Vietnam comprehensive partnership”, and conducted meetings with officials including President Tran Dai Quang, Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich, and National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan.

Additionally, this year witnessed the transfer of the former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau and six 45-foot American Metal Shark patrol boats to the Vietnam Coast Guard (VCG) ahead of Prime Minister Nguyen’s visit to the White House. Defense Minister Ngo is also expected to visit the United States later this year.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
PHL, Indonesia, Malaysia firm up ties to cut terror network in region
Indonesia, Malaysia, PH launch naval patrols

ASEAN
IPP REVIEW--US FONOPs in the South China Sea: Intent, Effectiveness, and Necessity
US Hosts Counter-Islamic State Meet Amid ASEAN Terror Fears
What Mattis’ Shangri-La Dialogue Speech Revealed About Trump’s Asia Policy
Southeast Asian nations step up cooperation as Islamic State threat mounts
Shangri-La dialogue: US, ASEAN agree on regional security issues
Trump gov't to stay put in Asia, defense chief says
Mattis praises China on North Korea, blasts South China Sea activity
ASEAN, Australia reaffirm commitment to strengthen strategic partnership
China vows cooperation with ASEAN to promote peace in South China Sea
Japan Ministry of Defence conducts Japan-Asean Ship Rider Cooperation Programme
Malaysian Defence Minister says Asean may launch joint air patrols to tackle terror threat
Non-interference hinders ASEAN fight against IS
The Future of Asia 2017: ASEAN aims for 'legally binding' South China Sea rules
Singapore Unveils New ASEAN Defense Initiatives Ahead of Chairmanship
ASEAN states to use spy planes, drones as spread of Islamic State threat mounts
China and Asean looking at holding joint maritime exercise next year, senior official says
What Did the ASEAN Trilateral Terror Meeting Achieve?

Brunei
Singapore invited to attend trilateral maritime patrol launch as observer
Five countries' defense ministers to discuss ISIS issue
Deputy Minister of Defence meets US Defence Secretary Mattis
Brunei delegation attends 16th SLD

Cambodia
Local police benefit from FBI training

Indonesia
Indonesia deploys Sukhoi jets to guard against fleeing militants
SE Asia Trilateral Cooperation Evolved to Counter Marawi Crisis
Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines to begin joint patrol
Indonesia, Russia Have Finalized Contract for Delivery of Su-35 Fighter Jets
Indonesian ISIS Fighters Enter Philippines  
Indonesia Joins Over 120 Countries in Adopting Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons
House: Terrorism Law to Be Finalized Soon
US military vessels entered RI waters: Indonesian Navy
Indonesian foreign minister meets with Philippine peace adviser
New Anti-Terrorism Law to Allow Jailing of Militant Returnees
DPR committed to accelerating discussion phase of anti-terror bill

Malaysia
Exclusive: Malaysia shelves plan to buy new fighter jets - defense source
Malaysia’s Coast Guard Gets New Chief
US: M’sia on right track to curbing trafficking
National Cyber Security Agency taking shape: DPM
Hisham: Tackling extremism a joint effort
FPDA members to share intelligence to fight terrorist threats

Philippines
Duterte: More arms coming from China, but no military alliance
AFP says no to 5-yr martial law
Foreign fighters helping IS militants in Marawi–AFP | BusinessMirror
DUTERTE-KIM MEETING | Support for war on terror extends beyond Marawi siege: US
Philippines, US security alliance still holds
Amid China’s build, build, build, Rody non-combative
Chinese envoy affirms PHL relations for a ‘thousand years to come’
No deal, gov’t tells Maute terrorists
PHL sets sail for sea safety
‘Marawi war may last longer’
Where Is the Philippines’ Air Force Modernization Under Duterte?
COMMENTARY: 5 facts about US assistance in Mindanao
PH, US navies begin maritime exercise
Philippine military make meth discovery in Marawi
Islamic State-Linked Militants Targeted in Southeast Asian Sea Patrols
US troops in besieged city of Marawi, Philippine military says
Bloody combat in a Philippine city highlights U.S. concerns about ISIS in Asia
Blasts rock besieged city as Philippines marks independence day
Duterte ignored IS threat amid focus on drugs war
US special forces aid Philippine troops in battle for Marawi
Duterte: I’ll follow any SC ruling on martial law
Philippines second least peaceful nation in Asia-Pacific
The Future of Asia 2017: Philippines rallies international support in terror fight
Philippine troops find US$1.6 million abandoned by militants
U.S. gives Philippines anti-terror weapons
Duterte’s forces struggle to push back Islamist rebels in the southern Philippines
Duterte rejects second-hand boats, military equipment from US
‘Drugs funding IS terror’
11 Philippine govt soldiers killed in military air strike on Marawi militants

Singapore
Islamic State Decline Makes Singapore a Target, Minister Warns
First woman detained for radicalism in Singapore after she planned to join Islamic State
Community needs to be wary of Islamic State's 'carefully crafted messages': MUIS
Imperative for family members, friends to report suspected radicals: MHA
Radicalised female infant care assistant from PCF Sparkletots detained under ISA for pro-ISIS activities
US Navy Plans to Deploy Two Littoral Combat Ships to Singapore in 2018
Singapore must play its part in the war against terror: Ng Eng Hen
Singapore, United States reaffirm defence ties
Terrorism threat remains at highest level in Singapore in recent years: MHA report

Thailand
Thailand Eyes New Korea Fighter Jets
Is Thailand Now Buying More Arms From China?
What’s Next for US-Thailand Military Ties Under Trump?
Thailand looks to acquire US platforms
Army defends armoured vehicle splurge
Thailand proposes defence procurement reform
US looking forward to closer Thai military ties
U.S. plans to sell Black Hawk helicopters to Thailand
CARAT Thailand concludes following eight days of Bilateral Training, Operations at sea
Top US Pacific commander visits Thailand to strengthen ties
Thailand’s New Army Chief Makes First Singapore Visit

Vietnam
Vietnam, Myanmar increase security cooperation
Navy to train with Vietnam amidst rising tensions with China
Vietnam emerges as a big Military equipment market
US, Vietnam Kick Off First Naval Engagement Activity in Trump Era
US-Vietnam Defense Ties in the Spotlight with Warship in Cam Ranh
Japan, Vietnam to bolster maritime security cooperation
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

PHL, Indonesia, Malaysia firm up ties to cut terror network in region Business World 23rd Jun 2017
THE Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia on Thursday agreed to coordinate in stopping the flow of terrorist funds and illicit arms as well as the spread of extremism-related propaganda on social media. Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (C) talks during a joint statement with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (L), and Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman (R) during a trilateral meeting in security in Manila on June 22, 2017.

Indonesia, Malaysia, PH launch naval patrols The Manila Times 19th Jun 2017
Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines began joint naval patrols in their region Monday as threats from extremist groups increase. The “trilateral coordinated maritime patrol” was launched amid continuing battles between Philippine troops and Islamist gunmen loyal to the Islamic State group, who have seized part of the city of Marawi in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

ASEAN

IPP REVIEW--US FONOPs in the South China Sea: Intent, Effectiveness, and Necessity IPP Review 12th Jul 2017
US Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea are controversial. Indeed, their targeting of China’s “excessive” claims there, their resumption under the administration of President Donald Trump, and China’s increasingly strident objections thereto raise important questions regarding their intent, effectiveness and necessity. Specifically, what is or should be their intent, have they been effective, and are they necessary? The last FONOP under the Obama administration targeting China’s claims in the South China Sea occurred on October 16, 2016. The first one under the Trump administration took place on May 24, 2017 when the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey made a non-innocent passage within 12 nm of China-claimed and occupied Mischief Reef in the Spratlys. This indirectly challenged China’s sovereignty over the low tide feature. China objected. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the US destroyer had “trespassed” near islands over which China has “indisputable sovereignty.”

US Hosts Counter-Islamic State Meet Amid ASEAN Terror Fears The Diplomat 11th Jul 2017
This week, the United States hosts the latest in a series of meetings of the Global Coalition Against ISIS in Washington, D.C amid lingering uncertainty in the campaign against the militant group. Despite the expected progress in the military campaign against ISIS strongholds in the Middle East, anxieties remain both in Washington and in Southeast Asia over what those gains mean in the context of the broader campaign as well as the effects this could have on other regions of the world. Since the formation of the Coalition back in November 2014, the group has grown to comprise 72 members and a series of working groups covering what officials define as the full range of aspects of the campaign from stabilization all the way to counter-messaging.

What Mattis’ Shangri-La Dialogue Speech Revealed About Trump’s Asia Policy The Diplomat 6th Jun 2017
Most of the commentary following U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis’ speech at the 2017 Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) has predictably focused on the rather superficial and flawed test of whether he sufficiently reassured the region on President Donald Trump’s Asia policy. That aside, and more substantively, the first major Asia defense policy speech in the Trump era did give us some more meaningful indications of where the administration may be headed in the near future.

Southeast Asian nations step up cooperation as Islamic State threat mounts Reuters 5th Jun 2017
Southeast Asian nations plan to use spy planes and drones to stem the movement of militants across their porous borders, defense officials said at the weekend, as concerns rise over the growing clout of Islamic State in the region. Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines said they will launch joint air patrols this month at their shared boundaries in the Sulu Sea, in addition to existing maritime patrols.

Shangri-La dialogue: US, ASEAN agree on regional security issues vietnamplus.vn 4th Jun 2017
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had a meeting with representatives from ASEAN countries on June 4 in Singapore, on the sidelines of the 16th Shangri-La Dialogue. According to Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Duc Hai, Director of the National Defence Strategy Institute and head of the Vietnamese delegation to the dialogue, ASEAN valued the role of the US in the region. The discussion saw member countries of the bloc talking about their respective domestic challenges and suggesting measures to strengthen cooperation with the US for regional peace and security. ASEAN nations expected the US to increase its commitments to the bloc, particularly in the implementation of cooperation mechanism within the framework of the ASEAN Defence Minister’s Meeting Plus (ADMM+).

Trump gov't to stay put in Asia, defense chief says Yonhap News Agency 3rd Jun 2017
Addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue here, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Saturday sent a clear message: We won't turn away from Asia. It marked an unusual declaration by a top Trump government official on its specific approach toward the region, while coordination with China remains a challenge especially on North Korea and wrangling over the South China Sea.

Mattis praises China on North Korea, blasts South China Sea activity South China Morning Post 3rd Jun 2017
Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Saturday that North Korea posed a global threat and praised China’s efforts to influence Pyongyang, while also criticising Beijing over its continued “militarisation” of the South China Sea. The comments by Mattis, during the annual Shangri-La Dialogue forum, show how US President Donald Trump’s administration is looking to balance working with China to restrain North Korea’s advancing missile and nuclear programmes while dealing with Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea. Trump has actively courted support from China’s President Xi Jinping to restrain North Korea, raising concern among Asian allies that Washington might allow China a more free rein elsewhere in the region. Mattis said the danger from North Korea was “clear and present” and that Pyongyang had increased its pace of pursuing nuclear weapons.

ASEAN, Australia reaffirm commitment to strengthen strategic partnership Antara News 21st Jun 2017
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia have reaffirmed their strong determination to further strengthen strategic partnership.

China vows cooperation with ASEAN to promote peace in South China Sea Xinhua 21st Jun 2017
BEIJING, June 21 (Xinhua) -- China Wednesday vowed joint efforts with ASEAN countries to ensure the success of the China-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting in August and promote peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Japan Ministry of Defence conducts Japan-Asean Ship Rider Cooperation Programme Borneo Bulletin Online 20th Jun 2017
THE Japan Ministry of Defence is conducting its first Japan-Asean Ship Rider Cooperation Programme on board the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force Ship IZUMO until June 23 in international waters surrounding the Republic of Singapore (aboard the JS IZUMO).

Malaysian Defence Minister says Asean may launch joint air patrols to tackle terror threat The Straits Times 13th Jun 2017
A joint air patrol between Asean countries is on the cards due to the increasing terror threat in the region, Malaysian Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said on Tuesday (June 13).

Non-interference hinders ASEAN fight against IS The Jakarta Post 9th Jun 2017
The attack on Marawi in the southern Philippines that claimed 103 lives was the deadliest in Southeast Asia so far.  It was a response to calls of reinforcement by Isnilon Hapilon, the Filipino militant dubbed the “Emir of Southeast Asia” allegedly linked to the Islamic State (IS). When Hapilon was hunted and surrounded by the military, hundreds of local Maute group militants poured into southern Mindanao and flew the black flag of IS.

The Future of Asia 2017: ASEAN aims for 'legally binding' South China Sea rules Nikkei Asian Review 6th Jun 2017
TOKYO -- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations will aim for a legally binding code of conduct on the South China Sea territorial dispute when it negotiates with Beijing, ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh told the Nikkei Asian Review on Monday.

Singapore Unveils New ASEAN Defense Initiatives Ahead of Chairmanship The Diplomat 5th Jun 2017
SINGAPORE – As we move into the sixth month of 2017, many are already looking ahead to 2018 and what we might expect when the annually-rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gets turned over from the Philippines to Singapore (See: “Duterte’s ASEAN South China Sea Blow”).

ASEAN states to use spy planes, drones as spread of Islamic State threat mounts The Japan Times 5th Jun 2017
Southeast Asian nations plan to use spy planes and drones to stem the movement of militants across their porous borders, defense officials said over the weekend, as concerns rise over the growing clout of Islamic State in the region.

China and Asean looking at holding joint maritime exercise next year, senior official says The Straits Times 3rd Jun 2017
SINGAPORE - China and Asean are exploring the possibility of holding a joint maritime exercise next year, Senior Colonel Zhou Bo of the People's Liberation Army said on Saturday (June 3).

What Did the ASEAN Trilateral Terror Meeting Achieve? The Diplomat 13th Jul 2017
Last week, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines held a trilateral security meeting in Manila to discuss terrorism and extremism in the region. The engagement was the latest sign of emerging cooperation between the countries amid rising fears about Islamic State in Southeast Asia.

Brunei

Singapore invited to attend trilateral maritime patrol launch as observer Channel NewsAsia 19th Jun 2017
Singapore will attend the launch of the Trilateral Maritime Patrol (TMP) by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines as an observer, at the invitation of the three member states of the joint patrols, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said on Saturday (Jun 17). Senior Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman will represent Minister of Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at the ceremony in Tarakan, Indonesia on Jun 19. In its statement, MINDEF said that Singapore the republic is supportive of the littoral states' efforts to enhance regional maritime security and counter-terrorism cooperation under the TMP. MINDEF and the Singapore Armed Forces have offered its Information Fusion Centre (IFC) to assist and facilitate maritime information sharing for the TMP, it added. The IFC has linkages to around 70 operations centres from more than 35 countries, and currently hosts 16 international liaison officers from countries such as Australia, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, United Kingdom and the United States, allowing better regional coordination against maritime threats. Besides Singapore, the three member states of the joint patrols also invited Brunei to attend the launch as an observer. 

Five countries' defense ministers to discuss ISIS issue Antara News 15th Jun 2017
The defense ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, and the Philippines will meet on June 19 in Tarakan, North Kalimantan, to discuss the ISIS issue in Marawi, Southern Philippines.

Deputy Minister of Defence meets US Defence Secretary Mattis Borneo Bulletin Online 6th Jun 2017
THE Deputy Minister of Defence, First Admiral (Rtd) Dato Seri Pahlawan Abdul Aziz bin Haji Mohd Tamit, on Sunday attended the United States-Asean meeting at the 2017 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Brunei delegation attends 16th SLD Borneo Bulletin Online 5th Jun 2017
DEFENCE ministers, chiefs of defence forces, senior officials and academics from 39 countries gathered in Singapore for the 16th Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Cambodia

Local police benefit from FBI training Khmer Times 13th Jun 2017
The tenth Cambodian police officer to take part in a special FBI training programme will fly to the United States in August.

Indonesia

Indonesia deploys Sukhoi jets to guard against fleeing militants Manila Bulletin News 19th Jun 2017
Indonesia has deployed Sukhoi fighters at a base in northern Borneo to beef up security in case Islamist militants who overran a town in the Philippines try to flee southwards, an air force colonel told the Antara news agency. The head of the air base in Tarakan, a town in the Indonesian province of North Kalimantan on Borneo, said three Sukhoi jets that arrived on Friday would remain for a month in case radicals fighting the Philippine military in Marawi City sought to escape to Indonesia. “The militants might flee the Philippines and be forced to cross the border to Indonesia,” the Indonesian state news agency cited Colonel Didik Krisyanto as saying.

SE Asia Trilateral Cooperation Evolved to Counter Marawi Crisis Tempo 15th Jun 2017
Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu plans to hold a meeting with the Malaysian and Philippine defense minister to discuss the continuity of the trilateral maritime cooperation. The trilateral meeting will be held in Tarakan, North Kalimantan on June 19. The meeting will mainly discuss the anticipative measures against the spread of ISIS extremist group throughout Southeast Asia. Minister Ryamizard also invited defense ministers of Singapore and Brunei Darussalam to be present at the trilateral forum.

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines to begin joint patrol Bangkok Post 13th Jun 2017
Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will start conducting a joint maritime patrol in waters off the southern Philippines next week to curb rampant cross-border kidnapping-for-ransom activities in the area, Indonesia's military chief said Monday. The move to patrol in Sulu Sea between eastern Malaysia and the Philippines comes amid recent efforts by the three Southeast Asian countries to fight against such operations blamed on rebels based in the southern Philippines.

Indonesia, Russia Have Finalized Contract for Delivery of Su-35 Fighter Jets The Diplomat 8th Jun 2017
Indonesia and Russia purportedly have finalized a contract for the procurement of an unknown number of Russian-made Su-35S ‘Flanker-E’ multirole fighter jets for the Indonesia Air Force (TNI-AU), according to Russian media reports. “Prior consent has been reached on the contract to deliver Su-35 to Indonesia, it will be (signed) this year,” said Viktor Kladov, the director of Rostec’s international cooperation and regional policy department, on June 6, according to TASS news agency. Indonesian officials have so far not confirmed that a deal has been reached. Over the past two years, Russian defense industry officials have repeatedly announced that the signing of a final contract was imminent only to find the Indonesian government holding up the conclusion of the agreement for various reasons including disagreement over offset obligations and technology transfers.

Indonesian ISIS Fighters Enter Philippines   Tempo 7th Jun 2017
The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) has detected the movements of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) fighters from Indonesia to the Philippines through the former’s north borders. The police and National Armed Forces (TNI) are now handling the exit route, according to the BNPT spokesman Irfan Idris.

Indonesia Joins Over 120 Countries in Adopting Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons Jakarta Globe 10th Jul 2017
Indonesia joined more than one hundred countries at the United Nations in New York on Friday (07/07) to endorse a treaty prohibiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, with the eventual aim to eliminate global nuclear arms stockpiles. "The endorsement of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty is an historic milestone in the effort to abolish nuclear weapons, and one of the prerequisites in achieving a more secure and peaceful world, free from the catastrophic threat of nuclear arms," said Hasan Kleib, the Indonesian permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

House: Terrorism Law to Be Finalized Soon Tempo 10th Jul 2017
Bambang Soesatyo, a member of the House of Representatives Commission III overseeing legal affairs, said that the role of Indonesian Military (TNI) in the counterterrorism law is getting clearer.  “But past practices such as cases of forced disappearances and human rights violations must be avoided,” Bambang said during the commemoration of the Indonesian National Police’s 71st Anniversary at the National Monument (Monas) in Jakarta on Monday, July 10.

US military vessels entered RI waters: Indonesian Navy The Jakarta Post 27th Jun 2017
The Indonesian Navy has confirmed that two US navy vessels that entered Indonesian waters off Natuna Islands in Riau Islands province in June did not breach any regulations. The vessels, the aircraft carriers the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS George Washington, "conducted innocent passage and thus there was no problem with it," Navy deputy chief of staff Vice Adm. Achmad Taufiqurrahman told The Jakarta Post.

Indonesian foreign minister meets with Philippine peace adviser The Jakarta Post 23rd Jun 2017
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi kicked off on Thursday a series of bilateral meetings with Philippine officials, beginning with Jesus Dureza, special adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte on the peace process in Mindanao. Dureza briefed the minister on a number of issues of concern for Indonesia, including the conflict in Marawi City and updates on the Bangsamoro Basic Law drafting process.

New Anti-Terrorism Law to Allow Jailing of Militant Returnees Jakarta Globe 21st Jun 2017
Indonesia is set to approve a law allowing authorities to jail for up to 15 years citizens coming home after joining militant groups abroad, lawmakers said on Wednesday (21/06). The tightening of anti-terrorism law in the world's largest Muslim-majority country comes as concern grows about the spread of influence of Islamic State, and fears it wants a foothold in Southeast Asia as it loses territory in the Middle East.

DPR committed to accelerating discussion phase of anti-terror bill Antara News 1st Jun 2017
Chairman of the House of Representatives (DPR) Setya Novanto affirmed his commitment to speeding up the discussion phase of the anti-terror bill, as requested by President Joko Widodo.

Malaysia

Exclusive: Malaysia shelves plan to buy new fighter jets - defense source Reuters 13th Jul 2017
Malaysia has put on hold a $2 billion plan to replace its aging fleet of combat aircraft, looking instead to upgrade its aerial surveillance capabilities to confront the growing threat of militancy inspired by the Islamic State group, a source with knowledge of the matter said. Southeast Asia's third-largest economy has for several years been weighing the competing merits of France's Rafale jet and the Eurofighter Typhoon, built by Britain's BAE Systems, as it looks to buy up to 18 jets to replace its Russian MiG-29 fighters - nearly half of which are grounded. The Rafale fighter - built by Dassault Aviation SA - was until recently seen as the frontrunner, with the support of key officials in Malaysia's defense ministry. But Malaysia has shelved those plans for now as it looks to boost aerial surveillance that will be critical in its fight against militancy, a defense ministry source told Reuters.

Malaysia’s Coast Guard Gets New Chief The Diplomat 8th Jun 2017
Malaysia’s Coast Guard has appointed a new chief as the agency undergoes modernization to help the country better confront a range of maritime challenges. Malaysia’s equivalent of a coast guard, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), was founded back in November 2005, and, as I have noted before, the country was one of the first among the Southeast Asian states to have such an agency (See: “Assessing Malaysia’s Coast Guard in ASEAN Perspective”). Since then, though the MMEA had a modest start and continues to face resource constraints, it has begun to help Malaysia confront a wide variety of challenges such as smuggling, piracy, illegal fishing, and militancy and has also received a number of capability boosts (See: “Why Japan’s Malaysia Coast Guard Boost Matters”). The MMEA has since been renamed the Malaysia Coast Guard as it undergoes these changes as part of the country’s broader military modernization.

US: M’sia on right track to curbing trafficking The Star Online 29th Jun 2017
While Malaysia remains in Tier 2 of the United States annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, it has been taken off the Watch List.This is because the country was deemed to have made significant efforts to eliminate trafficking.

National Cyber Security Agency taking shape: DPM NST Online 8th Jun 2017
The government is exploring ways of beefing up the country’s cyber security management.

Hisham: Tackling extremism a joint effort the star 5th Jun 2017
No country can combat religious extremism alone, said Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

FPDA members to share intelligence to fight terrorist threats the star 2nd Jun 2017
Members of the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) regional security institution have agreed to share intelligence to deal with terrorist threats against Malaysia and Singapore.

Philippines

Duterte: More arms coming from China, but no military alliance Inquirer 12th Jul 2017
China will deliver another shipment of arms and ammunition to the Philippines in September, President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Wednesday. He made it clear, however, that the Philippines could not enter into a military alliance with other nations because this would violate the Mutual Defense Treaty signed by the Philippines and the United States in 1951. “Because we have this RP-US pact, so I could not enter into any other military alliances. That would be a violation of the treaty,” Duterte said in his speech at the 26th anniversary of the Bureau of Jaiil Management and Penology (BJMP) in Camp Aguinaldo. “But on economics and terrorism. I can always go to other nations for help,” he said.

AFP says no to 5-yr martial law The Manila Times 11th Jul 2017
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and some lawmakers put their foot down on the proposal to prolong the implementation of martial law by five years, saying there is no basis for it.

Foreign fighters helping IS militants in Marawi–AFP | BusinessMirror BusinessMirror 5th Jul 2017
THE spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday confirmed the military has recently encountered foreign fighters in the conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. AFP Spokesman Restituto F. Padilla Jr. told a news briefing government troops were able to recover two cadavers, which they conclude to be of foreign nationality, in their recent takeover of a Maute Group stronghold in Marawi City. “There were two foreign-looking cadavers that were recovered also [in the area],” Padilla said.

DUTERTE-KIM MEETING | Support for war on terror extends beyond Marawi siege: US News5 - InterAksyon 4th Jul 2017
The United States has affirmed full support for the Philippines in its fight against terrorism, and is ready to assist even when the siege of Marawi ends, in terms of rehabilitating the once-bustling Islamic city ravaged by a 6-week-old war.

Philippines, US security alliance still holds Asian Correspondent 3rd Jul 2017
Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s bid for an independent foreign policy, the Philippines’ security partnership with long-time ally US remains firm, with the two countries freshly concluding a coordinated patrol exercise in the Sulu Sea in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. This developed as the US is helping quell the carnage in Marawi City by providing Filipino troops fighting the IS-linked Maute Group with information using advanced intelligence gathering equipment. The conduct of the sea patrol between the US and Philippine navies concluded over the weekend as the conflict in Marawi, which displaced at least 200,000 civilians, rages on and entered Day 42 today, Monday. The coordinated sea patrol was conducted upon the invitation of the Philippine government.

Amid China’s build, build, build, Rody non-combative philstar.com 1st Jul 2017
Faced with China’s version of “build, build, build” in the South China Sea, President Duterte is keeping his “non-combative” stance in dealing with Beijing, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said yesterday.

Chinese envoy affirms PHL relations for a ‘thousand years to come’ Business World 29th Jun 2017
MILITARY assistance by China to the Philippines marks a “new era” of relationship between the two nations, Beijing’s ambassador to Manila, as he affirmed his country’s willingness to explore the option of “joint military training” to combat terrorism.

No deal, gov’t tells Maute terrorists Inquirer.net 28th Jun 2017
The government on Tuesday rejected an exchange of captives with Islamic State-inspired gunmen holed up in Marawi, as the battle for control of the city entered its sixth week with intense bombing raids by military planes on a shrinking terrorist-held zone.

PHL sets sail for sea safety BusinessMirror 26th Jun 2017
THE Philippine Merchant Marine Rules and Regulations (PMMRR) of 1997, is now outdated, given that two decades have passed since it was first promulgated, and that new international rules are now in place. Over the past few years the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) tried to overhaul the antiquated rules and regulations but has since failed due to various reasons, including lack of resources.

‘Marawi war may last longer’ The Manila Times 23rd Jun 2017
AFTER a month of fighting in Marawi, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday admitted for the first time it would be hard to flush the remaining Islamic State (IS)-linked Maute terrorists out of the city.

Where Is the Philippines’ Air Force Modernization Under Duterte? The Diplomat 21st Jun 2017
After decades of neglect, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been engaged in an ambitious military modernization program over the past few years. Amid this, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has detailed its own plan for its modernization called Flight Plan 2028, a 14-year plan designed to last from its inception in 2013 up till 2028, which details the approach to building its capability to defend the country from not just internal threats, but increasingly external ones as well. But like other services, the PAF has seen several delays prevent it from getting what it needs to realize this goal for various reasons including specific procurement requirements. Under the First Horizon (2013-2017), the Aquino administration had approved several projects, including close air support (CAS) aircraft, long-range patrol aircraft (LRPA), FA-50 munitions, and anti-submarine warfare helicopters.

COMMENTARY: 5 facts about US assistance in Mindanao GMA News Online 21st Jun 2017
Three weeks into the Battle of Marawi, something important but not entirely surprising happened. The Duterte administration solicited the assistance of America to liberate the besieged city from Islamic State-affiliate groups under the command of the Maute Group. This was legal, if not Standard Operating Procedure, but obviously not in step with President Rodrigo Duterte’s months-long quest for an “independent” foreign policy, which, to him, means less dependence on America. Unsurprisingly, the commander-in-chief even denied that he personally sought American assistance, implying that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) made the decision unilaterally (and with his reluctant ex post facto acquiescence). Half-jokingly, Duterte event lamented, “This is really their sentiment, our soldiers are really pro-American, that I cannot deny.” There are five key issues to keep in mind when it comes to understanding the role of America in the ongoing operations in Mindanao: Beyond his fiery rhetoric, Duterte hasn’t been entirely opposed to American military assistance in Mindanao. The United States is involved in the Battle for Marawi, but only to a certain extent. Under a decade-long US$150 million grant program, America provided a new cache of weapons to the Philippines. The Philippines’ counter-terror cooperation with the US has had some success over the past decade. The Battle of Marawi came shortly after Duterte’s back-to-back visits to Beijing and Moscow, part of his broader strategy of diversification and pivoting to the East. In the meantime, these powers can’t provide assistance similar to America, since we have not signed any major bilateral defense agreement, namely a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) or an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which would allow them to provide advanced and large-scale lethal aid.

PH, US navies begin maritime exercise The Manila Times 19th Jun 2017
The Philippine and United States navies kicked off on Monday the Maritime Training Activity focused on mutual security concerns affecting the Philippines, including maritime domain awareness and patrol. The week-long maritime exercise being held in Cebu province is designed to enhance the complexity and diversity of training opportunities, while strengthening the long-standing alliance between the Philippines and the US. Commodore Loumer Bernabe of the Philippine Navy said the joint maritime training dubbed as “Sama-Sama” (together) provides opportunities for both navies to learn and operate together at sea and foster professional dialogue between them. “Our training together will strengthen our relationships at the operator level and will also strengthen our alliance and partnership in maritime cooperation,” Bernabe added in a statement. The exercise will focus on mutual security concerns, including sea smuggling and piracy that have been affecting the Philippines.

Philippine military make meth discovery in Marawi South China Morning Post 19th Jun 2017
The Philippine military found methamphetamine worth between US$2 million to US$5 million while clearing rebel positions in besieged Marawi City, officials said on Monday, boosting suspicions Islamist militants are being funded by the narcotics trade.

Islamic State-Linked Militants Targeted in Southeast Asian Sea Patrols WSJ 19th Jun 2017
Three Southeast Asian nations under threat from Islamic State-linked militants launched joint maritime patrols in an effort to stop a conflict in the southern Philippines from spreading to other parts of the region. The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia plan to police the Sulu and Celebes Seas, a vast area prone to piracy and kidnappings. Security officials in Southeast Asia have long feared that Islamic State’s activities in Syria could ignite dormant terrorist cells in Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia, nations with combined populations of almost 400 million people. The conflict in the southern Philippines, now entering its fifth week, is raising concerns in Jakarta that militants could flee to neighboring Indonesian islands. The joint patrols were first agreed to more than a year ago, but were delayed over disputes such as overlapping territorial claims, said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. The continuing battle between Philippine troops and Islamic State-linked militants in the southern Philippine town of Marawi pushed officials to move forward with the plan, Mr. Storey said.

US troops in besieged city of Marawi, Philippine military says BostonGlobe.com 14th Jun 2017
US troops are on the ground in the embattled southern Philippine city of Marawi, where the Philippine military is battling Islamic State group-linked militants for control of the city, a Philippine military spokesman said Wednesday. The spokesman, Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, said the US forces were not engaged in combat, but his statement was the first official confirmation of the US military presence in Marawi. Philippine and US officials have previously said that US Special Operations forces were providing military assistance in the battle for the city, but US officials have not said from where, and Philippine officials had said there were no US military “boots on the ground” in Marawi.

Bloody combat in a Philippine city highlights U.S. concerns about ISIS in Asia Washington Post 12th Jun 2017
The United States is grappling with a hardening reality: Islamic State terrorism is on the rise in southeast Asia, and it could worsen as foreign fighters abandon the battlefields of Iraq and Syria for new regions. The issue has snapped sharply into focus in the last three weeks, as militants and Philippine security forces have been locked in a bloody fight for Marawi, a lakeside city of about 200,000 people in the southern Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law May 23, hundreds of people have been killed, and most residents have fled. Philippine aircraft, including the Vietnam War-era OV-10 Bronco, have leveled buildings with airstrikes.

Blasts rock besieged city as Philippines marks independence day The Straits Times 12th Jun 2017
Bomb blasts rocked Marawi City in the southern Philippines on Monday (June 12) as the national flag was raised to mark independence day, almost three weeks after hundreds of Muslim militants overran the town and hunkered down with civilians as human shields.

Duterte ignored IS threat amid focus on drugs war TODAYonline 12th Jun 2017
It was classic bravado from the Philippines’ tough-guy president, Mr Rodrigo Duterte. The Maute Group, a militant Islamist band fighting government troops near the southern Philippines city of Marawi last year, had asked for a ceasefire.

US special forces aid Philippine troops in battle for Marawi The Straits Times 11th Jun 2017
United States special forces are helping Philippine troops retake the southern city of Marawi from hundreds of ultra-radical Muslims who have managed to hold back an entire army brigade for over two weeks.

Duterte: I’ll follow any SC ruling on martial law Inquier.net 10th Jun 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday he would abide by the decision of the Supreme Court on the pending petitions against martial law in Mindanao contrary to the declaration of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Philippines second least peaceful nation in Asia-Pacific philstar.com 7th Jun 2017
The Philippines remains among the least peaceful countries in the world, according to an annual peace index. The 2017 Global Peace Index ranked the Philippines 138th among 163 nations included in the report.

The Future of Asia 2017: Philippines rallies international support in terror fight Nikkei Asian Review 6th Jun 2017
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano on Tuesday called for international support in fighting Islamic State-aligned militants who have laid siege to a city in Mindanao. Coordination has started among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he told the Nikkei Asian Review before delivering the closing speech at the 23rd International Conference on the Future of Asia.

Philippine troops find US$1.6 million abandoned by militants South China Morning Post 6th Jun 2017
Philippines troops found bundles of banknotes and cheques worth about $1.6 million abandoned by Islamist militants holed up in Marawi City, a discovery the military said on Tuesday was evidence that the fighters were pulling back.

U.S. gives Philippines anti-terror weapons Rappler 5th Jun 2017
The United States on Monday, June 5, gave the Philippines hundreds of machine guns, pistols, and grenade launchers, which a local commander said would be used against terrorists battling troops in a southern city. The weapons, including machine guns capable of firing thousands of rounds a minute, were handed over at a ceremony in Manila that highlighted a decade-old American counter-terrorism assistance program to the Philippines worth about $150 million. "This equipment will enhance the [Philippine Marines'] counterterrorism capabilities, and help protect [troops] actively engaged in counterterrorism operations in the southern Philippines," a US embassy statement said. Philippine Marines chief Major General Emmanuel Salamat said at the ceremony troops would use the weapons in the ongoing battle against terrorists in the southern city of Marawi. Terrorists flying black Islamic State (ISIS) group flags rampaged through Marawi nearly two weeks ago, triggering clashes with troops and police that have left at least 178 people dead. In response to the violence, President Rodrigo Duterte quickly declared martial law in the southern region of Mindanao to quell what he said was a fast-growing threat from ISIS there. The Philippines and the United States have for decades been close allies, and they are bound by a 1951 mutual defense treaty to protect each other if attacked. The United States is the Philippines' biggest supplier of military hardware and arms. However Duterte, who took office last year, has sought to loosen the Philippines' ties with the United States while forging closer relations with China and Russia. Duterte has called for the withdrawal of American troops from his country while scaling down joint military exercises in response to US criticism of his deadly war on drugs.

Duterte’s forces struggle to push back Islamist rebels in the southern Philippines Washington Post 2nd Jun 2017
Ten days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao to respond to an Islamist siege in Marawi, the capital of Mindanao’s Lanao del Sur province, much of the Philippine political establishment has rallied around him. But the military campaign itself has gone much less smoothly, with some local residents and observers questioning the government’s combat strategy and the credibility of its public communications. Steven Rood, a professor at Australian National University who has studied armed conflicts in the Philippines for years, said it is not surprising that the government has failed to control all of Mindanao, since militant Islamist and left-wing rebels have been active on the impoverished island for decades. But the new, more radical contingent involved in the May 23 attack caught the government unawares with its numbers and tactics, he said. “The Philippine military hasn’t really been trained for urban warfare, as they have been going against rebels in the hills for so long,” Rood said. “And they admit they simply don’t have the precision-guided munitions that would make aerial bombardment to take out particular houses feasible.” He added, “There have been slip-ups in the communication strategy, and they know it.”

Duterte rejects second-hand boats, military equipment from US Manila Bulletin News 2nd Jun 2017
President Duterte said he will no longer acquire second-hand military equipment from the United States (US) for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Addressing troops of the army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade in Barangay Igsoon, Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay Friday afternoon, Duterte said government forces will win over terror groups in Marawi City using the best military equipment.

‘Drugs funding IS terror’ philstar.com 1st Jun 2017
Drug money is fueling terrorist activities in the Philippines. President Duterte announced this yesterday, saying that besieged Marawi City is a production base for shabu, with those engaged in the illegal drug trade seeking protection from terror groups.

11 Philippine govt soldiers killed in military air strike on Marawi militants The Straits Times 1st Jun 2017
Philippine airstrikes aimed at Muslim militants who are holding hostages as human shields in a southern city killed 11 soldiers, authorities said on Thursday (June 1), as they conceded hundreds of gunmen may have escaped a blockade. The friendly fire deaths bring to 171 the number of people reported killed since gunmen waving black flags of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group began rampaging through the Muslim city of Marawi last week.

Singapore

Islamic State Decline Makes Singapore a Target, Minister Warns Bloomberg.com 30th Jun 2017
Terrorism is entrenched in Southeast Asia and will only worsen as Islamic State’s fortunes fade and foreign fighters skilled in bomb making and hijacking return from the Middle East, Singapore’s defense minister said. “When we talk about endemic threats we usually refer to threats like dengue or tuberculosis, which means that it’s here to stay, that despite years of effort you can’t eradicate it,” Ng Eng Hen told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the country’s armed forces day on July 1. “The problem will now come to Asean,” Ng said, referring to the 10 states that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. “Singapore is a target.” Ng cited the siege of Marawi, a city in the southern Philippines, where soldiers have been battling Islamic State-linked militants for more than a month. Terrorist camps discovered in Marawi turned up large amounts of money, weapons caches and fighters recruited from outside the Philippines, he said.

First woman detained for radicalism in Singapore after she planned to join Islamic State Channel NewsAsia 12th Jun 2017
Singapore has detained its first female citizen for radicalism under the Internal Security Act (ISA), said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Monday (June 12). Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, a 22-year-old contract infant-care assistant with the PCF (PAP Community Foundation) Sparkletots preschool programme, was detained in June this year.

Community needs to be wary of Islamic State's 'carefully crafted messages': MUIS Channel NewsAsia 12th Jun 2017
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) on Monday (Jun 12) called for the community to be "very wary" of the Islamic State's "carefully crafted messages" on social media, adding that a radicalised individual's support structure may not be able to counter them.

Imperative for family members, friends to report suspected radicals: MHA Channel NewsAsia 12th Jun 2017
It is “imperative” for family members and friends to raise to the authorities anyone they suspect of being radicalised or who is planning terror activities, to make Singapore safer in the face of the heightened terrorism threat worldwide, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Monday (June 12).

Radicalised female infant care assistant from PCF Sparkletots detained under ISA for pro-ISIS activities The Straits Times 12th Jun 2017
A 22-year-old Singaporean has become the first woman to be detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for radicalism, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, who wanted to be a "martyr's widow" for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was detained earlier this month.

US Navy Plans to Deploy Two Littoral Combat Ships to Singapore in 2018 The Diplomat 9th Jun 2017
The U.S. Navy’s program officer for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) announced plans to simultaneously deploy two of the ships to Singapore in 2018. Speaking to the independent U.S. Naval Institute News, Rear Admiral John Neagley said the U.S. Navy is working on the maintenance, logistics, and training requirements to support two ships in Singapore simultaneously; so far LCS units have only deployed there individually. The U.S. Navy originally hoped to have four LCSs in Singapore by now, a plan thwarted by significant manning and maintenance challenges in the LCS deployments to-date. In 2015, the U.S. Admiral in charge of the Singapore-based Task Force 73 told reporters that the U.S Navy planned to rotationally deploy four LCS units there by as early as May 2017, and at least by 2018. As May of  2017 came and went, the new, more modest goal articulated by Admiral Neagley reflects the lessons the U.S. Navy has learned from earlier breakdowns that have sidelined each of the previously deployed LCSs.

Singapore must play its part in the war against terror: Ng Eng Hen TODAYonline 6th Jun 2017
SINGAPORE — Singapore has offered its assistance to combat militancy in the Southern Philippines and the Sulu Sea because terrorism cannot be allowed to become entrenched in South-east Asia, said Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen.

Singapore, United States reaffirm defence ties Channel NewsAsia 3rd Jun 2017
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Saturday (Jun 3) reaffirmed the "excellent and longstanding" defence ties between Singapore and the United States, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said. Meeting over breakfast on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue – Asia's premier security forum – in Singapore, Dr Ng and Mr Mattis discussed security issues and cooperation to foster regional stability.  Both reaffirmed the importance of the 2015 enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, which deepened bilateral cooperation in non-conventional security areas such as maritime security, cybersecurity and biosecurity, MINDEF said.  They also spoke about the importance of the US’ continued presence in Asia Pacific in ensuring peace and stability, and discussed the threat of extremism and terrorism in Southeast Asia, particularly in the Sulu Sea and the Southern Philippines, the ministry said.

Terrorism threat remains at highest level in Singapore in recent years: MHA report Channel NewsAsia 1st Jun 2017
The terrorism threat to Singapore stands at its highest level in recent years and the country remains a key target of the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a report issued on Thursday (Jun 1).

Thailand

Thailand Eyes New Korea Fighter Jets The Diplomat 12th Jul 2017
On Tuesday, Thailand’s cabinet approved the purchase of eight T-50 advanced jets from South Korea. If confirmed, the move would mark just the latest defense acquisition by the military government since coming to power following a coup in May 2014.

Is Thailand Now Buying More Arms From China? The Diplomat 11th Jul 2017
On June 14, Thai media outlets reported that the cabinet had approved the Royal Thai Army (RTA) proposal to buy 34 armored personnel carriers from China. Though this represents the confirmation of a move that had been mulled earlier, it nonetheless signifies Bangkok’s insistence on moving forward with Beijing on the defense side in spite of lingering concerns in some circles about what it means for the Southeast Asian state.

What’s Next for US-Thailand Military Ties Under Trump? The Diplomat 4th Jul 2017
Last Thursday, Thailand’s army chief Chalermchai Sitthisart made headlines when he told reporters that the United States government had approved a Thai purchase order for four Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters, weeks before an expected summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Though some of the hype surrounding the sale is rooted in the misconception that defense ties had been severed following the Thai coup in 2014, as opposed to just being initially and temporarily downgraded in some areas, it nonetheless illustrates how both sides remain keen to forge ahead with defense cooperation in spite of ongoing challenges.

Thailand looks to acquire US platforms Jane's 360 27th Jun 2017
The Royal Thai Armed Forces is preparing a list of military equipment to procure from the United States as part of efforts to strengthen bilateral defence ties. Major General Kongcheep Tantravanich, spokesman for the Thai Ministry of Defence, said on 26 June that the military had been requested to formalise lists of procurement targets ahead of Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s visit to Washington in July. The targets will also consider US platforms that the Thai military could procure through aid mechanisms such as the US Excess Defense Articles (EDA) programme. High on the agenda is likely to be spare parts to support US platforms – particularly helicopters – in operation in Thailand.

Army defends armoured vehicle splurge Bangkok Post 15th Jun 2017
The army and the government on Wednesday defended a decision to buy 34 armoured vehicles worth 2.3 billion baht from China, saying the procurement is in line with the country's defence needs and its national development plan. Army commander Chalermchai Sittisart said the scheme to purchase VN-1 rubber-wheel armoured vehicles was studied thoroughly by an army committee that considered bidders from several countries including Russia and Ukraine.

Thailand proposes defence procurement reform Jane's 360 12th Jun 2017
Thailand is proposing to restructure its defence procurement mechanisms by expanding the remit of the Defence Technology Institute (DTI), a Ministry of Defence (MoD) body currently with remit for research and development (R&D) and defence industry development. Under proposed legislation recently drafted by the government, the DTI will become the Defence Technology Agency (DTA) and will act as a centralised procurement administrator for the Royal Thai Armed Forces and MoD. The changes, which are outlined in draft legislation published recently on the DTI’s website, are intended to support the development of local industry as well as introduce greater efficiencies in defence procurement processes, which are currently largely decentralised across the three armed forces and the MoD itself.

US looking forward to closer Thai military ties Bangkok Post 4th Jun 2017
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said he looks forward to Thailand's return to democracy and to expand military cooperation with the country. He reiterated America's commitment to Asia-Pacific but urged the countries in the region, including Thailand, to play a greater role in their own security. "We call upon all countries to contribute sufficiently to their own security. At the same time, we encourage them to actively seek out opportunities and partnerships with other like-minded nations, and we do the same, to sustain and maintain the peace," Mr Mattis said during a speech at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday. "We will continue to engage closely with our partners, building on recent progress. We are exploring new ways to address challenges, from maritime security to the growing threat posed by the spread of terrorism in Southeast Asia."

U.S. plans to sell Black Hawk helicopters to Thailand Reuters 29th Jun 2017
The United States plans to sell four Black Hawk helicopters to Thailand after initially suspending their sale following a 2014 military coup. "The United States government has approved our purchase order for the four helicopters," army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart told reporters on Thursday, adding that the army already had 12 Black Hawk helicopters. "The matter will now be forwarded to Congress for approval," he said. The U.S. embassy in Bangkok confirmed the plan to sell the four helicopters, adding that Thailand and the United States had a "long-standing security relationship". Thailand's military, which has a long history of intervention in politics, ousted a democratically elected government in May 2014 saying it had to step in to end a period of political turmoil.

CARAT Thailand concludes following eight days of Bilateral Training, Operations at sea Stripes Okinawa 6th Jun 2017
After eight days of bilateral training events ashore and at sea, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and Royal Thai Navy (RTN) concluded the 23rd-annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise, at Sattahip Naval Base in Thailand, June 6. As the premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia, CARAT provides a regional venue to address shared maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability among participating forces, and develop sustained naval partnerships with nations across South and Southeast Asia. The Royal Thai Navy has been a participant in the CARAT series since the exercises began in 1995. "Over the past eight days our Sailors and Marines worked side-by-side with their Thai counterparts in conducting a variety of training events ashore and operations at sea," said Capt. Alexis Walker, deputy commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7. "Through 23 years of operating together, CARAT exercises allow us to incorporate new training topics and sea-based operations each year, furthering our interoperability and joint capabilities."

Top US Pacific commander visits Thailand to strengthen ties The Nation 5th Jun 2017
Brown held talks with Thai military commander-in-chief General Surapong Suwanna-art on Monday with an emphasis on Cobra Gold, the largest Asia-Pacific exercise held annually in Thailand, with seven countries participating.  An official guest of the Royal Thai Army, Brown is scheduled to stay in Thailand from Saturday to Wednesday. Yesterday, he also met with Army chief General Chalermchai Sittisart and today is scheduled to visit the 31st Infantry Regiment King’s Guard in Lopburi.

Thailand’s New Army Chief Makes First Singapore Visit The Diplomat 1st Jun 2017
Thailand’s army chief paid his first visit to Singapore this week in a trip that underscored the defense ties between the two Southeast Asian states. Singapore and Thailand have a close defense relationship. Bilaterally, beyond traditional aspects like exchanges, visits and exercises, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has also had an overseas training area in Thailand, one of several arrangements it has with countries including Australia and the United States. The two countries are also involved in multilateral interactions, whether it be established ones like Singapore’s full participation in the Cobra Gold exercises since 2000, or newer manifestations of trilateral cooperation between the two countries and the United States.

Vietnam

Vietnam, Myanmar increase security cooperation Nhan Dan 13th Jul 2017
Aung Soe is in Vietnam to attend the fifth Vietnam-Myanmar security dialogue at deputy ministerial level. Lam said the deputy ministerial-level, security dialogue mechanism facilitates practical and intensive cooperation of the two countries in the fields of public security, police and personnel training, especially as trans-national crime in the region is showing complicated developments.

Navy to train with Vietnam amidst rising tensions with China Navy Times 10th Jul 2017
While the relationship between the U.S. and China has strained recently over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy announced Wednesday that it has begun training drills with a different nation with ties to the region — Vietnam, reports

Vietnam emerges as a big Military equipment market New Delhi Times 10th Jul 2017
Vietnam is considered by most global defence contractors as a market with great potential. The country’s defence expenditure is increasing strongly and the government is determined to enter into strategic partnerships with new allies, which means its traditional reliance on Russia is gradually diminishing. Its list of military requirements, meanwhile, is long.

US, Vietnam Kick Off First Naval Engagement Activity in Trump Era The Diplomat 6th Jul 2017
On July 5, the United States and Vietnam kicked of the eighth iteration of their annual naval engagement in just the latest sign of their ongoing defense ties.

US-Vietnam Defense Ties in the Spotlight with Warship in Cam Ranh The Diplomat 13th Jun 2017
A LCS visit is just the latest in a series of steps both sides have taken in enhancing their security relationship.

Japan, Vietnam to bolster maritime security cooperation sacbee 6th Jun 2017
Japan and Vietnam agreed Tuesday to bolster their security ties through Japanese-funded projects including the upgrading of Vietnamese coastal patrol capabilities, defense equipment and technology transfer amid concerns about China's increasingly assertive activity in regional seas.