Defense & Security Update: April 9, 2020

Defense & Security Update  | April 9, 2020
Authors: Jack Myint & Ingyin
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Royal Thai Air Force Publishes White Paper on Procurement Priorities

On February 20, the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) released a white paper that outlines its procurement priorities for the next decade and beyond. Among its comprehensive wish list bearing transport as well as attack aircraft and combat search-and-rescue helicopters, the White Paper also notes the challenges the RTAF faces in attempting to replace its existing assets while ensuring that new procurements are compatible with their Link T datalink system. 

Of utmost importance on its list is replacing its fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules transport aircraft. The acquisition of adding a dozen new air-lifters are to be executed in three phases, involving around 4 aircraft each phase. The three phases are expected to be from 2022 to 2025, 2024 to 2026, and from 2026 to 2029. Along with these, the RTAF is also allocating US$77.5 million for Korea Aerospace Industries T-50th lead-in fighter trainers.

To shore up Thailand's defense capabilities, the RTAF also seeks 24 new fighters to replace its fleet of F-16s from Lockheed Martin. The overall procurement of this category is expected to run from 2023 to 2033. Also critical in the defense realm is a sophisticated airborne early warning and control system. To achieve this, the RTAF seeks to upgrade its 2 Saab 340 aircraft. 

Noting budget limitations, the White Paper emphasizes that new inventory must be able to supplement the old, especially to carry out critical missions characteristic to Thailand. These involve humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Hence, RTAF works to obtain 6 additional combat search-and-rescue helicopters to replace the existing fleet Bell-US1 and Bell 412.

Despite the extensive list, the White Paper does not state sources of equipment or exact funding allocated for each category. In part, it signals Thailand's cautious will to advance its defense initiatives, brought on by the nation's slowing economy, and changes in the political realm. Regardless, the stated needs demonstrate Thailand will steadily continue to modernize its aerospace capabilities. To access the full white paper, please click here.

ASEAN Defense Mechanisms To Defeat COVID-19

Geographical proximity, regional interdependence and common cultural practices signify that ASEAN member nations will need a multilateral effort to defeat the threat of COVID-19. In recognition of this, the Defense Ministers’ Meeting Retreat (DMMR) held on February 19 was centered around advocating for regional cooperation in dealing with the pandemic. A joint statement issued at the meeting’s conclusion promises an enhancement in the region’s cooperative efforts using its defense networks- an encouraging first step that aims to utilize military medicine cooperation and information sharing to present solidarity in the face of a global challenge. It also pledges coordination among the ASEAN Center for Military Medicine, ASEAN Chiefs of Military Medicine Conference, ASEAN Military Medicine Conference, and the Network of ASEAN Chemical, Biological and Radiological Defense Experts.

Among these partnerships, the ASEAN Center for Military Medicine (ACMM) stands out as the only defense-centered response to COVID-19 thus far. Launched in 2016, the ACMM is essential to develop joint medical response plans, conduct research to emergency medical crises, and assess the magnitude of crisis situations. Confronted with COVID-19, the ACMM convened via teleconference on January 28 to discuss preventative measures with an emphasis on widespread testing and an enhanced preparedness per the outlines of the World Health Organization. The discussions also entail welcoming the input of ADMM-Plus, which includes eight additional countries in addition to the ten ASEAN nations, to collectively strategize a response mechanism.

Despite the seemingly promising initiatives, the bureaucratic measures of respective member countries could still curtail the effectiveness of response plans. Additionally, the involvement of foreign military personnel also carries the speculation that sensitive, or otherwise confidential information must be shared to obtain a truly cooperate effort. With ASEAN leaders trying to manage the evolving situation in their respective countries, a substantial collective endeavor remains to be seen.

Philippines Terminates Decades-old Visiting Forces Agreement

In mid-February, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States would be eliminated. The elimination will take effect on August 9, and the notice has been sent to the US government. Since 1999, the VFA has served as a strategic stronghold for US forces operating in Southeast Asia; among others, the agreement permits rotational stationing of U.S. troops in Philippine to conduct regular joint military training and exercises - activities that set this relationship apart from those with other ASEAN nations. Additionally, the US presence in the region with access to Philippines' airspace and waters signals a counterbalance to China's continuing dominance in the region, especially regarding territorial and maritime contentions in the South China Sea.

Internal skepticism surrounding withdrawal from the VFA is also observed among the Philippine Senate leaders; they have petitioned for the Supreme Court to provide an explanation regarding President Duterte's powers to unilaterally retract from the twenty year old security pact. The abrupt abrogation is thought to stem from the US's rejection of Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa's tourist visa; Dela Rosa is a former chief of Philippine National Police under whose watch the extrajudicial killings took place as a key component of President Duterte's war on drugs. ​​​​​​

The proposed termination of the VFA also calls to question the validity of two other US-Philippine security agreements. Signed in 1951, the Mutual Defense Treaty pledges mutual assistance should either country comes under attack by a foreign nation. The Treaty was undergoing 'low-level discussions' on possible revisions late last year, and now remains uncertain. Likewise, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) enacted in 2014 serves to complement the VFA's capacity to bolster the bilateral alliance. Under the EDCA, the US military has access to five bases in Philippines; officials have noted that without the VFA, the EDCA also becomes ineffective.

Since the termination does not take effect until August, there remains a chance that President Duterte, amidst his strong inclination, could revert this decision. Defense ministers of both countries have noted their grievances over the unilateral move, with the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary calling for a revision of the agreement rather than a termination. Conducting over 300 drills each year covering counterterrorism, disaster preparedness, as well as response to maritime conflicts, the elimination of the Visiting Forces Agreement could spell dire consequences not just for the two nations involved, but also for ASEAN as it navigates unchartered waters with China. ​​​​

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Malaysia-Vietnam strengthen cooperation on security

ASEAN
Joint Statement by The ASEAN Defence Ministers on Defense Cooperation Against Disease Outbreaks
What Does the New Australia-ASEAN Informal Defense Ministers’ Meeting Mean for the Future of Security Ties?
ASEAN nations hit by data breaches, ransomware attacks and cryptojacking last year, Interpol says

Brunei
What Does Brunei’s New Defense Budget Mean for its Security Outlook?
Over BND606M budget for MinDef
A New Malaysia-Brunei Spat on Maritime Boundary Projects?
Vietnam, Brunei join hands to combat crimes
Brunei-Thai defence ties goes from strength to strength
Brunei’s Defense Planning in the Spotlight With Exercise Setia Bersama
Introductory Air Force Chief Visit Highlights Brunei-Thailand Defense Ties

Cambodia
$500 million a year spent on military equipment sees Cambodia fall behind in the Asean ranks
Work on law on WMD financing continues
Defence Minister Tea Banh to visit Turkey for talks on defence cooperation
New Security Plan Puts Vietnam-Cambodia Defense Ties in the Headlines
Tea Banh tells navy to boost its ongoing security assignments
4th Cambodia-China Military Exercise to be held in March

Indonesia
Indonesia Is Reconsidering Contract With South Korea for 3 Diesel-Electric Submarines
Indonesia approves USD280 million request for follow-on BT-3F order | Jane's 360
Philippines eyes Indonesia-made combat vehicles
Amphibious forces conduct maritime patrolling of Sebaru Kecil Island
Indonesian homegrown gunship displayed at Singapore Airshow 
Jokowi wants Bakamla upgraded to Indonesian coast guard as new chief sworn in
In South China Sea Confrontation, Indonesia Resists China—Cautiously
Indonesian Military Says Chinese Vessels Left Disputed Waters
Indonesia Mobilizes Its Own 'Little Blue Men' as Stand-Off Continues With China Over Disputed Waters

Laos
New Arms Delivery Puts Russia-Laos Defense Ties in the Headlines

Malaysia
Coronavirus: Malaysian military to help enforce order for people to stay at home from Sunday
Drone Delivery Puts the Focus on US-Malaysia Security Cooperation
New Delivery Highlights Malaysia-France Artillery Deal
Foreign Ministry sets up Covid-19 task force, confirms 11 cases of Malaysians abroad
Disbanded Thailand Party Alleges Government Collusion in Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal
Malaysia seeks pact to stop illegal fishing by Vietnamese
Japan urges Asean, Malaysia to make firm stand on South China Sea
US-Malaysia Security Cooperation in the Headlines with Aircraft Mission Systems Transfer

Myanmar
Submarine owned by the navy under maintenance: army

Philippines
US cancels Philippines war games due to coronavirus
Terrorism or dissent? New Philippine law is open to interpretation
Jurisprudence on treaty termination sought by Senate
PHL as weapons manufacturing base
Navy pilots undergo anti-submarine warfare training
Peza eyes defense industrial complexes
US businessmen worry over termination of VFA
Trump says he does not mind Duterte ending VFA
Senate divided as Philippines sends VFA notice of termination to U.S.
Philippines scrapping military cooperation pact with US
NGCP claims to have thwarted 100 cyberattacks on grid system
Banks rate cybersecurity as top concern
New Navy chief wants 'modern systems, mindsets' as new assets replace ailing ships
'Still speculative': Nograles says there's no plan yet to renegotiate VFA
US, Philippines reaffirm alliance, but no mention of VFA

Singapore
Sea robbery attempt in Singapore Strait foiled by Singapore and Indonesian navies
New laws to lead to credit upgrade
Parliament: New inter-ministry committee formed to fight online scams
Parliament: SAF to restructure to deal with cyber, terrorism, maritime threats
Republic of Singapore Navy to get new chief from March
Singapore’s aerospace industry gets $360m investment
Maritime Security Task Force to restructure, beef up assets
Singapore Says Pirates Come from Elsewhere

Thailand
Pacific Pathways in Thailand ongoing amid pandemic
What’s in the Thailand Air Force’s New White Paper?
Thailand Mall Shooting: Soldier’s Deadly Rampage Reveals Security Lapses

Vietnam
UK Navy Vessel Vietnam Visit Highlights Defense Cooperation  
Vietravel Airlines’ plan for first flights postponed due to COVID-19
VN protests, demands compensation for fishing ship China sank in Hoàng Sa waters
Vietnam PM approves establishment of Vietravel Airlines
Đà Nẵng to export aerospace components next year
US naval ships’ visit to Việt Nam helps promote bilateral ties
Japan to transfer military shipbuilding technology to Vietnam
Vietnam wants ASEAN to "not have to choose sides": military official
NA Vice Chairman welcomes guests from US House Committee on Armed Services
ASEAN members and partners discuss defence co-operation
Việt Nam boosts defence co-operation among ASEAN members
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Malaysia-Vietnam strengthen cooperation on security Malaysiakini 13th Feb 2020
Malaysia and Vietnam today agreed to strengthen their cooperation in addressing security issues affecting both countries. This was decided upon during a meeting between Home Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Vietnamese Public Security Minister General To Lam who paid a courtesy visit to the former at his ministry here. Among other matters, the hour-long meeting also touched on cooperation to address cross-border crime and issues pertaining to territorial waters including advancing the roles of the respective maritime agencies of both countries in combating crime in the waters.

ASEAN

Joint Statement by The ASEAN Defence Ministers on Defense Cooperation Against Disease Outbreaks ASEAN | ONE VISION ONE IDENTITY ONE COMMUNITY 20th Feb 2020
The ASEAN Defence Ministers met at their Retreat in Ha Noi, Viet Nam, on 19 February 2020. The theme “Defence Cooperation for a Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN” is chosen by Viet Nam as Chair of the ADMM and the ADMM-Plus for this year. In response to the Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), the Ministers issued the “Joint Statement of the ASEAN Defence Ministers on Defence Cooperation Against Disease Outbreaks”, which reflects the spirit of solidarity and defence sectoral potential contribution in tackling the Covid-19.

What Does the New Australia-ASEAN Informal Defense Ministers’ Meeting Mean for the Future of Security Ties? The Diplomat 20th Feb 2020
On February 19 in Hanoi, Australia and ASEAN held what was the inaugural iteration of a new informal meeting between their defense ministers. The birth of the new mechanism spotlighted the status of the security aspect of relations between the two sides and the management of it amid wider trend and developments. Australia’s Defense Minister Linda Reynolds unveiled Australia’s vision for its defense relationship for ASEAN in 2020, with a set of six priorities – mutual respect, ASEAN centrality, supporting sovereignty, addressing areas of shared priority, transparency, and respect for international law and norms; as well as eight priority areas – education and training, women, peace, and security, peacekeeping, countering terrorism, maritime security, military medicine, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and promoting communication, cooperation, and interoperability.

ASEAN nations hit by data breaches, ransomware attacks and cryptojacking last year, Interpol says Illicit Trade News Network 20th Feb 2020
Southeast Asia experienced “significant” levels of cyber crime in 2019, including major data breaches, crippling ransomware attacks and a huge rise in cryptojacking, according to a new report from Interpol. In its ASEAN Cyberthreat Assessment 2020, the International law enforcement agency revealed that the region saw an increase in botnet,business email compromise (BEC) attacks, banking malware attacks crypto-ransomware and cryptojacking. The Interpol ASEAN Cybercrime Operations Desk concluded its report by vowing to enhance cyber crime intelligence for effective responses to cyber crime in the region, strengthen cooperation for joint operations against cyber crime, and develop regional capacity and capabilities to combat cyber crime.

Brunei

What Does Brunei’s New Defense Budget Mean for its Security Outlook? The Diplomat 13th Mar 2020
Brunei’s second defense minister laid out some of the policies and future initiatives of the defense ministry for the fiscal year, including a proposed defense budget increase. The budget allocation reflects an ongoing effort by the Southeast Asian state to increase its defense spending following previous drastic cuts amid wider economic challenges. Per the second defense minister, the budget for the defense ministry allocated for the financial year of 2020-2021 was designated at B$606,027,220 (US$432.15 million). This constitutes an increase of around 0.27 percent from the previous financial year. The budget increase came in the context of a complex geopolitical environment, with a range of challenges explicitly mentioned including the South China Sea and the Novel Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19).

Over BND606M budget for MinDef Borneo Bulletin 13th Mar 2020
The defense budget for the Ministry of Defense (MinDef) allocated for the Financial Year 2020/2021 is BND606,027,220.00, an increase of 0.27 per cent from the previous financial year. This was highlighted by Minister of Defence II Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof at the fourth day of the 16th Legislative Council Meeting on March 12. Faced with a complex geopolitical environment, the minister reinforced the three pillars which are Deterrence and Response, Defense Diplomacy and Holistic Defense in addressing the dynamic challenges, which include the South China Sea and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Reliable and trained human resource remains a key priority for the MinDef, and the minister shared that the Officer Cadet School, Defense Academy RBAF produced 523 officers, and the recent opening of a new RBAF Recruitment Office building last year to ensure sustainable recruitment. On defense diplomacy, MinDef remains active and committed to the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and its related meetings, and will look to co-chair the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group in Military Medicine with Australia for a three-year period. These policies and plans will be elaborated further with the release of a new Defense White Paper on the 60th anniversary of RBAF in 2021, during which Brunei Darussalam will also take the helm as ASEAN Chair.

A New Malaysia-Brunei Spat on Maritime Boundary Projects? The Diplomat 5th Mar 2020
Over the past few days, reports have surfaced suggesting a new spat between Malaysia and Brunei over cross-border projects in their shared maritime boundary. While there have been no official public confirmations of the argument, the development nonetheless bears careful watching given the relationship between the two Southeast Asian states and the significance of these projects for wider economic and political dynamics in these countries. One of the key developments in bilateral ties over the past decade or so was the negotiation of an agreement over their maritime boundaries. While details have never been released publicly, the two countries reportedly reached agreement on a wide array of issues in March 2009 after multiple rounds of talks, including the contours of their maritime boundaries and the terms for joint development of offshore energy resources which had paved the way for projects to take place thereafter. Last week, we saw a focus on this aspect of the bilateral relationship with reports surfacing about a hold placed on existing projects that lie within the shared maritime boundary. The news, first reported exclusively by Energy Voice on February 28 and then subsequently appearing in other industry publications as well, suggested that Malaysia had revoked a cross-border agreement with Brunei to jointly develop fields along the Malaysia-Brunei maritime boundary. Energy Voice cited anonymous industry sources in Malaysia as confirming that Petronas had halted discussions in early February regarding unitization and joint collaboration on several upstream projects straddling the maritime boundary, specifically those located in Blocks CA-1 and CA-2 in the demarcated Malaysia-Brunei Commercial Arrangement Area (CAA).

Vietnam, Brunei join hands to combat crimes The Star Online 16th Feb 2020
The Vietnam and Brunei governments have announced that amid the complicated situation of transnational crimes, terrorism, human trafficking, and high-tech crimes in the region, the two security forces will work together, especially in the fight against terrorism, high-tech, and drug crimes, as well as through cyber security collaboration. The consensus was reached on February 14 and an official announcement was made on Sunday. Defense officials explained close cooperation will contribute significantly to deepening the Vietnam -Brunei comprehensive partnership in the future. The Brunei Ministry of Defence will also consider the establishment of a joint working group on political-security cooperation, organize annual deputy ministerial-level talks on crime prevention, and set up a coordinating mechanism on inspection and settlement of high-tech crimes, especially gambling crimes, among others. It was highlighted that both sides needed to exchange experiences in preventing terrorists who take advantage of the cyberspace to carry out other acts of sabotage, while promoting co-ordination to improve management capacity and ensure safety for the national information system.

Brunei-Thai defence ties goes from strength to strength The Star Online 4th Feb 2020
In a statement during a celebration of the Royal Thai Armed Forces Day at the Rizqun International Hotel on February 4, Thai Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Wanthanee Viputwongsaku said that Brunei and Thailand have strengthened their close and long-standing defense relations through various wide-ranging interactions between the Royal Thai Armed Forces and Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF). The ambassador elaborated that these interactions include regular exchange of visits. In the previous week, the Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army General Apirat Kongsompong visited Brunei Darussalam, signifying the strong friendship between the two armed forces. Other engagements include exercises, training, and cross-attendance of courses, which have contributed to the strong ties between the two armed forces across all levels. “Our two countries also cooperate closely and extensively on multilateral platforms such as the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and ADMM-Plus,” the ambassador said, adding, “I am pleased to note that the 13th ADMM meeting during Thailand’s Chairmanship last year had been fruitful, particularly with the adoption of the Concept Paper on the Expansion of ASEAN Direct Communications Infrastructure (ADI) to the Plus Countries.”

Brunei’s Defense Planning in the Spotlight With Exercise Setia Bersama The Diplomat 3rd Feb 2020
Brunei carried out a planned military exercise the weekend of February 1 as a set of drills under the banner of Exercise Setia Bersama. The drills and their framing put a rare spotlight on how the Southeast Asian state is thinking about and acting with respect to its own defense amid a series of internal and external security challenges. Per Brunei’s defense ministry (MINDEF), Exercise Setia Bersama was conducted across Brunei Darussalam in all four districts, including the International Convention Center (ICC) in Brunei-Muara District and all military camps in the districts, with a notification issued to the public ahead of time. It featured Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) units, along with support from the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) and Gurkha Reserve Unit (GRU), and was partly witnessed by top military officials including Brunei’s second minister of defense and its military chief. According to MINDEF, the exercise provided a platform for “a more realistic training opportunity” for RBAF to test and validate procedures at the operational and tactical levels, and it also required the RBAF to conduct joint level planning, coordination, and synchronization of execution by employing a comprehensive approach with the RBAF units and other government department security agencies. Interestingly, MINDEF also specifically noted that the exercise was tied to the preparation for Brunei’s hosting of next year’s ASEAN Summit when it becomes the ASEAN chair. It said that the exercise was “focused on the key objective of RBAF readiness towards responding to complex and asymmetrical environments such as peaceful public protests.”

Introductory Air Force Chief Visit Highlights Brunei-Thailand Defense Ties The Diplomat 9th Jan 2020
Last week, Thailand’s new air force chief made his introductory visit to Brunei. While the scheduled trip was just one of a series of interactions between the two fellow Southeast Asian states, it nonetheless put the spotlight on the state of the defense aspect of their broader bilateral relationship.

Cambodia

$500 million a year spent on military equipment sees Cambodia fall behind in the Asean ranks Khmer Times 30th Mar 2020
The newly-released Global Firepower Index 2020 has put Cambodia 107 out of 138 countries for military strength. $500 million a year spent on military equipment sees Cambodia fall behind in the ASEAN ranks. The report outlines that while Cambodia has no shortage of experienced and battle-tested soldiers, its main deficiency is a lack of modern equipment. Cambodia is reported to have spent $20 million on arms purchases in China last year on top of the $200 million that it spent for similar purposes in the past. Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that Cambodia intends to purchase L-39 trainer jets and light attack planes from the Czech Republic and China.

Work on law on WMD financing continues Phnom Penh Post 28th Jan 2020
A draft law on curtailing the financing of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) has been reviewed by local officials and is on course to reach the National Assembly, according to the Ministry of Interior.

Defence Minister Tea Banh to visit Turkey for talks on defence cooperation Khmer Times 24th Jan 2020
National Defence Minister General Tea Banh and his senior military delegations will pay a six-day visit to Turkey at the invitation of General Hulusi akar, Turkish Defence Minister. According to a press release, Gen Banh is set to visit Turkey from January 26 to 31 and he will hold a bilateral meeting with his Turkish counterpart to strengthen Cambodia-Turkey defence cooperation.

New Security Plan Puts Vietnam-Cambodia Defense Ties in the Headlines The Diplomat 21st Jan 2020
Over the weekend, Vietnam and Cambodia inked a new security cooperation plan. The signing of the agreement highlighted the defense aspect of the wider relationship between the two countries as well as how they continue to manage the opportunities and challenges therein amid wider domestic and regional developments. Cambodia and Vietnam, two neighboring Southeast Asian states, share a defense relationship as part of their wider diplomatic ties. Apart from the fact that Vietnam provides the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) with military equipment, infrastructure, and training, both countries have also looked to manage more sensitive areas of the relationship such as outstanding issues over their shared 700-mile long border, illegal fishing, and China’s growing influence in mainland Southeast Asia.

Tea Banh tells navy to boost its ongoing security assignments Phnom Penh Post 21st Jan 2020
Minister of National Defence Tea Banh has instructed the Kingdom’s navy to enhance their efforts to maintain peace and order along the country’s waterways. Speaking at a workshop on Monday for the navy’s 2020 plan, Banh said it must coordinate with local police forces while carrying out its duties to protect the nation. “Enhance observation stations along islands. Pay attention, maintain security and public order and cooperate with relevant police at all levels to enforce laws, and prevent and crack down on offences in a timely manner,” he said.

4th Cambodia-China Military Exercise to be held in March Khmer Times 14th Jan 2020
The fourth joint military exercise, involving Cambodia and China, the Golden Dragon to showcase the iron clad friendship of the two nations are scheduled to be held in March this year. Major General Thong Solimo, Spokesperson of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) in stating this revealed that approximately 2000 soldiers will take participate in the military drill, to be held at the Techo Sen Chum Kiri Military Institute in Kampot province under the theme “Counter-terrorism and Humanitarian Relief.”,

Indonesia

Indonesia Is Reconsidering Contract With South Korea for 3 Diesel-Electric Submarines The Diplomat 3rd Apr 2020
The Indonesian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is reportedly reconsidering an estimated $900 million contract with South Korean shipbuilder Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) for a second batch of three Type 209/1400 Nagapasa-class (Chang Bogo-class) diesel-electric attack submarines (SSK) for the Indonesian Navy (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Laut), Jane’s reports on April 1.

Indonesia approves USD280 million request for follow-on BT-3F order | Jane's 360 IHS Jane's 1st Apr 2020
The Indonesian government has approved an IDR4633 trillion (USD280 million) request to procure a further batch of BT-3F amphibious vehicles for the country’s Marines Corps (Korps Marinir: KORMAR). The request has been approved by an Indonesian inter-ministry committee known as the House of Representatives’ commission on defence, intelligence, and foreign affairs (Komisi I). The allocation will be used to fund the procurement of up to 79 BT-3F units, and the vehicles will be ordered from Russia’s JSC Rosoboronexport once formalities are in place, Jane’s has been made to understand.

Philippines eyes Indonesia-made combat vehicles The Jakarta Post 29th Feb 2020
The Philippine National Defense Department has expressed interest in buying combat vehicles from Indonesia’s state-owned weapons manufacturer PT Pindad. "If our end user is interested, we will get [the combat vehicles] from Pindad and other [Indonesian] industries," the department's undersecretary for finance and material, Raymundo Elefante Elefante, said during a visit to Pindad’s factory in Bandung, West Java, on Friday.

Amphibious forces conduct maritime patrolling of Sebaru Kecil Island Antara News 28th Feb 2020
The Indonesian Navy's amphibious force command (Kopaska) is conducting water patrolling around Sebaru Kecil Island, Kepulauan Seribu District, where 188 Indonesian citizens working on the World Dream ship, are being quarantined over coronavirus prevention.

Indonesian homegrown gunship displayed at Singapore Airshow  The Jakarta Post 13th Feb 2020
State-owned aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) is displaying a CN235 gunship at the Singapore Airshow held at the Changi Exhibition Center from Feb. 11 to 16. PTDI corporate communication manager Adi Prastowo said the company was seeking to “expand marketing and increase sales of products and services” by participating at the show.

Jokowi wants Bakamla upgraded to Indonesian coast guard as new chief sworn in The Jakarta Post 12th Feb 2020
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has inaugurated Vice Adm. Aan Kurnia as the new chief of the Maritime Security Agency (Bakamla), replacing Achmad Taufiqoerrochman, who has entered retirement. Speaking after the swearing-in ceremony at the State Palace on Wednesday, Jokowi said he envisioned Bakamla as the Indonesian coast guard rather than just a coordinator in efforts to secure the country’s maritime interests.

In South China Sea Confrontation, Indonesia Resists China—Cautiously WSJ 17th Jan 2020
In late December, several Chinese coast guard ships escorted more than three dozen Chinese fishing boats into the waters off Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. In the two-week confrontation that followed at the far southern end of the South China Sea, Indonesia deployed five warships, which joined two others that normally patrol the area, and four F-16 jet fighters. The orders from Jakarta: drive the Chinese away, but find a way to do it without escalating tensions, a military spokesman said.

Indonesian Military Says Chinese Vessels Left Disputed Waters The New York Times 9th Jan 2020
Indonesia's military said on Thursday that Chinese coast guard vessels and fishing boats had left disputed waters in the western reaches of the South China Sea following a visit by President Joko Widodo to assert his nation's sovereignty. During recent weeks, Jakarta summoned China's ambassador after the coast guard and fishing boats entered waters around the northern Natuna islands, where Indonesia has established an exclusive economic zone.

Indonesia Mobilizes Its Own 'Little Blue Men' as Stand-Off Continues With China Over Disputed Waters The Epoch Times 9th Jan 2020
Indonesia is retaliating against China’s use of tens of thousands of “Little Blue Men” to harass South China Sea traffic by enlisting its own fishing fleet as a maritime militia. Jakarta lodged an official diplomatic protest to Beijing on Dec. 30 in response to three China Coast Guard and approximately 63 fishing vessels entering Indonesia’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Indonesia’s waters include the 272 islands of the Natuna archipelago that lie in the strategic confluence of the South China Sea to the north and northeast, Karimata Strait to the southeast, and Strait of Singapore to the west.

Laos

New Arms Delivery Puts Russia-Laos Defense Ties in the Headlines The Diplomat 4th Feb 2020
Last week, Russia disclosed that it had delivered another round of tanks and armored vehicles to Laos. While some specifics still remain unclear, it nonetheless spotlighted some of the ongoing activity in the defense aspect of Russia-Laos ties as well as Moscow’s military activities in the Asia-Pacific more generally.

Malaysia

Coronavirus: Malaysian military to help enforce order for people to stay at home from Sunday The Straits Times 20th Mar 2020
Malaysia will deploy its military from Sunday (March 22) to help police enforce the government’s order for people to stay at home amid the coronavirus outbreak. Defence Minister Ismail Sabri told a news conference on Friday that the decision was made at a national emergency meeting to have the military assist the police with the Restriction of Movement Order.

Drone Delivery Puts the Focus on US-Malaysia Security Cooperation The Diplomat 6th Apr 2020
Last week, Malaysia’s chief of defense forces confirmed that the Southeast Asian state had taken delivery of the first batch of unmanned aerial vehicles and accompanying equipment from the United States as part of a deal that had been publicly unveiled in the middle of last year. While the development was expected, it nonetheless spotlighted an aspect of defense cooperation between the two countries amid the evolution of the wider bilateral relationship. Among the expected developments within U.S.-Malaysia defense ties was the delivery of UAVs that was first unveiled last year. Last week, we saw further details about the deal following comments by a top Malaysian defense official. Affendi Buang, the chief of the Malaysian Defense Forces, told defense outlet IHS Jane’s that the first of the UAVs had been delivered to Malaysia. Per Affendi’s comments, the first batch of the UAVs, along with related equipment, was delivered to Malaysia back in late February, when Malaysia was in the midst of undergoing its shifting coalition politics. He added that the remaining six UAVs are expected to be handed over in 2022, with the package in the deal also including training and maintenance and the ability to operate the UAVs for up to 2,000 hours for the duration of the program.

New Delivery Highlights Malaysia-France Artillery Deal The Diplomat 6th Apr 2020
Malaysia's artillery deal with France highlighted one of the aspects of Malaysia’s ongoing efforts to develop its defense capabilities to address a wide range of security challenges. Despite continued investments in its military capabilities, Malaysia continues to face challenges with respect to some of its key platforms. Addressing these challenges continues to be a priority for the Malaysian government, including through the release of documents such as the defense white paper last year, which sets out areas of emphasis over the next decade. One of the deals in this respect was for artillery systems ordered from France. Malaysia had ordered 18 105 mm LG1 light towed artillery systems from French defense company Nexter back in 2018, with the contract signed in April at the Defense Services Asia exhibition in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. The contract had included the supply of fully digitized 105 LG1 Mk III Light Guns, the BACARA compact portable ballistic computer, and a first batch of 105 mm high-explosive, base-bleed, extended-range G3 ammunition. Earlier this week, we saw a sign that the deal continued to be moving through despite these previous delays. Per a Malaysian defense official, the first few of the systems arrived last month and are currently being assembled before being delivered.

Foreign Ministry sets up Covid-19 task force, confirms 11 cases of Malaysians abroad Malay Mail 13th Mar 2020
A special task force will be formed to monitor Covid-19 infection cases involving Malaysians abroad, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein announced on March 13 as concern mounts over the worsening pandemic. Eleven Malaysian nationals have been infected by the novel coronavirus on foreign soil to date, Hishammuddin said in a statement. Nine cases were reported in Singapore, with seven of them still under treatment, while two had been cured and discharged. The remaining two cases were in Japan. Both the patients have since returned. Hishammuddin said his deputy, Datuk Kamaruddin Jaafar, will lead the team that will be tasked to provide detailed updates on the situation. The report will be made public “from time to time,” the minister added. Wisma Putra estimated there could be up to 50,000 Malaysians scattered in ten of the countries most severely affected by the outbreak. The United States has the highest number of Malaysian nationals based abroad by country, at 23,179, followed by China at 14,929, Japan at 6,019, South Korea at 4,297, France at 2,401, and Germany at 2,218, according to data from Wisma Putra. These exclude civil servants based and their family members, who make up close to a thousand more.

Disbanded Thailand Party Alleges Government Collusion in Malaysia’s 1MDB Scandal The Diplomat 2nd Mar 2020
Thailand’s disbanded opposition Future Forward Party attacked the government on February 23 for allegedly colluding with Malaysia’s former prime minister to cover up the 1MDB financial scandal, for which former Malaysian leader Najib Razak is now standing trial. The accusation comes a day ahead of Monday’s launch of a no-confidence debate in the Thai parliament against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and five other Cabinet members. The Future Forward Party, which won the third highest number of seats in last March’s general election, was dissolved Friday by Thailand’s Constitutional Court for violating election laws by accepting a large loan from its leader, auto-parts billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. Eleven party executives were kicked out of parliament immediately and banned from political office for 10 years, but the party’s remaining 65 lawmakers can keep their seats if they join another party within 60 days. Party spokeswoman Pannika Wanich said at a news conference that because she was one of the lawmakers who lost their seats, she was presenting the case the party had prepared about the 1MDB scandal outside of parliament. Pannika’s assertions are generally known and break no new ground. However, all have previously been treated as sideshows to the case, and this is the first major effort to spotlight any involvement by Thailand.

Malaysia seeks pact to stop illegal fishing by Vietnamese Free Malaysia Today 16th Feb 2020
Malaysia intends to enter into an agreement with Vietnam to overcome encroachment of deep-sea fishermen from the republic into the country’s territorial waters, said Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah. He said such an agreement had been signed between Malaysia and Indonesia and a similar agreement could also be signed with Vietnam as a follow-up to the letter of intent signed in August last year to resolve the problem. “We take it (encroachment) seriously because lately there has been an increase in the number of foreign fishing boats encroaching into Malaysian waters in the east coast, with most of them from Vietnam.” He said 141 Vietnamese fishermen were detained last year for encroaching into Malaysia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. He said Vietnam had given a positive response to the matter as the republic was aware of the problem.

Japan urges Asean, Malaysia to make firm stand on South China Sea NST Online 8th Feb 2020
Japan has strongly encouraged ASEAN nations, particularly Malaysia, to speak up and make a firm stand on their sovereign rights to disputed territories in the South China Sea (SCS). Making the call, Japan's former deputy foreign minister Hitoshi Tanaka said that “Silence could no longer be golden” and it is high time ASEAN countries, as stakeholders, put their foot down courageously. "Japan has great concerns over developments and tensions in the South and even North China Sea, as it can have severe repercussions for maritime nations in the region. "Hence, Japan is committed towards the well-being of ASEAN which has the potential to be in the 'driver's seat' in the region even though the countries in the pact are not as economically or militarily strong as the larger aggressor nations. "Someone needs to remind the superpowers to pay greater attention to ASEAN which has a strategic role in ensuring peace and stability in the SCS and Pacific," said Tanaka, who is now the Institute for International Strategy chairman at the Japan Research Institute Limited. He was referring to China's attempt to claim all or parts of islands, shoals and reefs in the Paracels, Scarborough Shoal, the Spratlys and Natuna Islands by plotting its 'nine-dash line'. Malaysia is laying claim on parts of the Spratlys along with Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei; while Vietnam disputes the Paracels and Scarborough, with Indonesia facing challenges on Natuna.

US-Malaysia Security Cooperation in the Headlines with Aircraft Mission Systems Transfer The Diplomat 5th Feb 2020
Last week, details emerged regarding the transfer of aircraft mission systems from the United States and Malaysia. The development spotlighted an aspect of cooperation between the two countries in the defense realm amid wider challenges in the broader bilateral relationship. This aspect of U.S.-Malaysia relations was in the spotlight last week with suggestions that Malaysia would be receiving aircraft mission systems from the United States. Affendi Buang, the chief of the Royal Malaysia Armed Forces (RMAF), told defense outlet IHS Jane’s on January 31 that the mission systems on the two aircraft would be provided by the United States via the Pentagon’s Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) as Malaysia seeks to convert two PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) CN-325 transports into maritime patrol aircraft (MPAs). While few additional details were provided by Affendi himself, IHS Jane’s said the mission suite is likely to include the Merlin maritime surveillance system developed by Oregon-based Integrated Surveillance and Defense, Inc (ISD) – including a maritime surveillance radar, an electro-optical sensor turret, and an electronic support measures system – which has been installed on three CN-235s, two of which are in service with the Indonesian Navy and the other operated by the Indonesian Air Force. Though specifics are still unclear, the development would not be without significance. While Malaysia had preserved the option to convert the transports into MPAs when it received the completed delivery back in 2001, it has yet to be exercised thus far and Malaysia currently operated seven CN-235s. The transfer of these mission systems would thus help realize a previously held objective.

Myanmar

Submarine owned by the navy under maintenance: army Eleven Media Group Co., Ltd 28th Feb 2020
The submarine owned by the navy is still under maintenance and it will be seen at the navy soon, said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun, Secretary of Tatmadaw True News Information Team. The army will inform the public if the submarine is ready to be in service as they said before and its inauguration ceremony will be held exclusively, he said.

Philippines

US cancels Philippines war games due to coronavirus South China Morning Post 27th Mar 2020
The US military has cancelled large-scale exercises involving thousands of troops in the Philippines in May due to the coronavirus pandemic. “In light of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Covid-19 pandemic and in the best interest of the health and safety of both countries’ forces, it is prudent to cancel Balikatan 2020,” US Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral Phil Davidson said. The war games, set to be held in the Philippines on May 4-15, usually involve several thousand troops from the two long-standing allies and a smaller contingent from Australia, according to the hosts.

Jurisprudence on treaty termination sought by Senate Business World 2nd Mar 2020
The Senate on Monday adopted a resolution asking the Supreme Court to come up with jurisprudence on whether President Rodrigo R. Duterte can end a treaty without Senate concurrence. Twelve senators voted to adopt the document sponsored by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, while seven abstained. The move comes after President Duterte on Feb. 11 announced his decision to end a military agreement with the US on the deployment of troops for war games. The presidential palace has said it doesn’t need to seek permission from the Senate to terminate the two-decade-old visiting forces agreement. The 1987 Constitution is silent on the matter.

PHL as weapons manufacturing base BusinessMirror 20th Feb 2020
The Philippines may soon become a weapons manufacturing base, joining the global club of arms producers. The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) recently disclosed plans to transform several economic zones into defense-industrial complexes that will allow the country to produce military equipment and weapons on its own. Peza Director General Charito B. Plaza said the agency can help speed up the country’s industrialization process with the creation of new economic zones. These new economic zones would include military-industrial complex that could be potentially established in the military’s reservation areas. She said the defense-industrial complex will allow the country to manufacture its own military and defense equipment, as well as weaponry. Once established, our own defense-industrial complex can be used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines to start inviting manufacturers that can help modernize the AFP.

Navy pilots undergo anti-submarine warfare training Philippine News Agency 20th Feb 2020
The Philippine Navy (PN) on Wednesday said pilots and aircrew tasked to man its two AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) AW-159 "Wildcat" helicopters are currently undergoing anti-submarine warfare (ASW) training. Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-command, Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said these trainings, which are programmed for the entire year, are designed to equip personnel with adequate knowledge in manning these specialized helicopters the finer points of submarine detection and prosecution. These involved training in the use of various surveillance systems of the AW-159s including its dipping sonar which is its primary equipment for submarine detection.

Peza eyes defense industrial complexes BusinessMirror 18th Feb 2020
THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) is eyeing to transform several economic zones into defense industrial complexes that will allow the country to produce military equipment and weapons on its own. In a statement on Monday, Peza Director General Charito B. Plaza said the agency is putting in efforts to fully industrialize the Philippines with the creation of new economic zones. These new economic zones will include defense industrial complex, to be established among the potential economic zones of the military’s reservation areas. According to Plaza, the defense industrial complex will allow the country to manufacture its own military and defense equipment, as well as weaponry.

US businessmen worry over termination of VFA philstar.com 14th Feb 2020
The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc. (AmCham) has expressed concern over the Philippines’ move to terminate a military agreement with the US. The group supports the concern raised by US Defense Secretary Mark Esper on the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Esper said terminating the military deal is a move in the wrong direction. Esper also said ending the defense pact would be moving in the wrong direction  as the two countries and  other partners in the region are telling China to follow international rules of order.

Trump says he does not mind Duterte ending VFA Business World 13th Feb 2020
US President Donald Trump said he did not mind Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s decision to end a decades-old military agreement with the United States, a position at odds with that of his defense secretary who viewed the move with dismay. Mr. Duterte on Tuesday announced the termination of the two-decade-old visiting forces agreement (VFA), which governs the deployment of troops for war games. US Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the decision “unfortunate” as Washington and its allies press China to abide by international rules in Asia. “I don’t really mind if they would like to do that, it will save a lot of money,” Trump told reporters at the White House. Mr. Trump has frequently expressed a desire to bring US military forces home from decades-long deployments abroad and has strong-armed some allies into paying more for the right to US defense.

Senate divided as Philippines sends VFA notice of termination to U.S. Rappler 12th Feb 2020
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Tuesday, February 11, split along political lines after the Philippines sent its notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to the United States. It was divided on whether or not the President had the power to unilaterally abrogate international agreements. In the end, the pro-administration senators withdrew their votes on theSenate resolution approved Monday, February 10, urging Malacañang to first review the VFA.

Philippines scrapping military cooperation pact with US TheHill 11th Feb 2020
The Philippines will end a two-decade-long military agreement with the U.S., officials announced Tuesday. The nation’s announcement that it will terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement comes amid increasingly friendly relations with China and a cooling of the U.S.-Filipino relationship under President Rodrigo Duterte, as well as reluctance on the Philippines’ part to confront Beijing over South China Sea territorial disputes. About 300 joint exercises between the two nations’ militaries take place annually under the deal, with allows the U.S. to rotate military forces through Philippine bases. While the agreement is still in place, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said on Twitter that Philippine officials have delivered the notice to terminate to the American Embassy in Manila. The delivery will start a 180-day countdown after which the pact will officially lapse.

NGCP claims to have thwarted 100 cyberattacks on grid system Business World 10th Feb 2020
The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines’ (NGCP) transparency regarding its operations has become an issue after reports that it has detected 100 cyberattacks, officials said. NGCP President Anthony L. Almeda disclosed the detection of cyberattacks “a hundred times,” in the past few weeks. On top of this, National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) said the NGCP uses the NARI Transmission Control Operational Platform System, which allows remote access to the grid. Such controls are remotely accessible. Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi pressed the NGCP to subject its operations to audit to ensure that security measures are in place to counter attacks. NGCP Spokesperson Cynthia P. Alabanza said the detections are proof that its cybersecurity efforts are effective.

Banks rate cybersecurity as top concern Business World 10th Feb 2020
Board members and Chief Risk Officers (CROs) of banks and other financial institutions have identified cybersecurity as their top short-term (12 months) risk priority. This was revealed in the Tenth Annual Global Risk Management Survey conducted by EY (Ernst & Young) and the Institute of International Finance. Survey participants comprised 94 firms in 43 countries with 23% based in Asia. Cybersecurity emerged at the top spot for the third straight year, considering that it only surfaced as a risk concern in 2015. We see this as a result of rapid technology development and the onslaught of banks embarking on digital transformation journeys in the last five years. The refreshed survey also affirmed cybersecurity as one of the major risks to anticipate in the next decade. Some of the key issues identified were concerns on industry-wide cybersecurity attacks, third-party security, cloud transition, and cybersecurity capabilities.

New Navy chief wants 'modern systems, mindsets' as new assets replace ailing ships Rappler 5th Feb 2020
Speaking as he assumed command of the 25,000-strong Navy on Monday, February 3, at their headquarters in Manila, Philippine Navy's new Flag Officer-in-Command, Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo presented a detailed plan of how he intends to thoroughly modernize the service, now the focus of Horizon 2 of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) three-tiered, P300-billion Modernization Program. Bacordo emphasized the need to train the Navy's sailors and marines in thinking and operating in ways that maximize its new acquisitions, which would entail updating the Navy's support infrastructure like shipyards and harbors, as well as its recruitment and training processes.

'Still speculative': Nograles says there's no plan yet to renegotiate VFA philstar.com 5th Feb 2020
There is no plan yet to renegotiate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States (US), Malacañang said Wednesday, after senators urged President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his decision to terminate the decades-old pact. Last month, Duterte announced that he is scrapping the VFA in response to the cancellation of the US visa of senator Ronald dela Rosa. Other reasons cited by Malacañang are the demand by some US senators to free detained opposition Sen. Leila de Lima; the US Senate resolution condemning the alleged human rights violations in the Philippines; and the introduction of a US national budget provision that ban from the US people behind De Lima's detention. Three senators - Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Panfilo Lacson - have filed a resolution asking Duterte to reconsider his decision to abrogate the VFA while the Senate is reviewing and assessing the impact of the defense pact.

US, Philippines reaffirm alliance, but no mention of VFA philstar.com 1st Feb 2020
The Philippines and the United States have reaffirmed their strong security, cultural and economic ties, days after President Duterte ordered the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The US State Department reports that PH Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Deputy State Secretary Stephen Biegun reaffirmed “the value of the US-Philippine alliance based on the deep, historic friendship and mutual respect between our two countries” during their meeting in Washington, DC. Duterte’s directive to scrap the two-decade-old VFA came on the heels of the US cancellation of the visa of PH Senator Ronald dela Rosa, one of his closest allies.

Singapore

Sea robbery attempt in Singapore Strait foiled by Singapore and Indonesian navies The Straits Times 16th Mar 2020
A daring robbery attempt by three pirates in the Singapore Strait on Monday (March 16) morning was foiled by the close cooperation between the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Indonesian navy (TNI-AL). The Maritime Port and Authority of Singapore's (MPA) Port Operations Command Centre received a report from a Liberian-flagged shipping vessel Sam Jaguar at 5:11am that pirates had boarded the ship, and had been locked in the engine room by the ship's crew. RSN's Information Fusion Centre shared real-time information on the incident with Indonesian authorities. This information helped TNI-AL to eventually apprehend the pirates in Indonesian waters after deploying two ships and a helicopter to hail and board Sam Jaguar.

New laws to lead to credit upgrade BusinessMirror 4th Mar 2020
THE Duterte administration expects the amendments on the Republic Act 9160, or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (AMLA); and RA 9372, or the Human Security Act (HSA) of 2007 to finally drive the country toward another credit rating upgrade. Currently, major rating agencies Moody’s, Fitchr atings, Standard & Poors, gave the country a “B” rating meaning a investment grade. If Philippines get the much coveted “A” rating, it will be able to get loans from more countries or financial institutions for lower interests.

Parliament: New inter-ministry committee formed to fight online scams The Straits Times 2nd Mar 2020
A new inter-ministry committee has been set up to combat the growing scourge of online scams as more police reports were made on them last year. The committee will formulate and carry out a strategy to deter and prevent online scammers from carrying out their operations, mitigate losses incurred and ensure the public remains vigilant of such scams. The committee will be manned by representatives from three ministries - the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of Trade and Industry - and others. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Sun Xueling said that online scams were an area of concern and scammers have been deploying novel ways of cheating their victims. The number of police reports made on scams jumped by more than 50 per cent last year, with many related to e-commerce, fake loan and credit-for-sex schemes.

Parliament: SAF to restructure to deal with cyber, terrorism, maritime threats The Straits Times 2nd Mar 2020
A high-level committee will be formed to build an integrated cyber force to defend Singapore against cyber threats, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday (March 2). This committee - led by the permanent secretary for defence development and the Chief of Defence Force (CDF) - will be examining ways to "recruit soldiers of the right aptitude, their training and deployments", he added. This Singapore Armed Forces cyber command will have to provide threat assessments and early warning against cyber attacks, and respond accordingly, he added. Threats in the cyber domain was among three "clear and present" security threats that Dr Ng highlighted in his speech during the debate on his ministry's annual spending plans, along with maritime threats and terrorism.

Republic of Singapore Navy to get new chief from March The Straits Times 25th Feb 2020
Rear-Admiral (RADM) Lew Chuen Hong will step down as the Singapore Navy's chief, with RADM Aaron Beng Yao Cheng, who is currently the Chief of Staff - Naval Staff, set to take over the post on March 23. The Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday (Feb 25) that this change was part of the continuing process of leadership renewal in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). RADM Lew, 43, has held his current post since June 16, 2017.

Singapore’s aerospace industry gets $360m investment Flight Global 12th Feb 2020
Singapore’s aerospace industry will see inward investment of S$500 million ($360 million) over the next five years as global firms strengthen their presence in the city state. Firms including GE Aviation, Rolls-Royce and Safran Aircraft Engines have signed agreements with Singapore government agency JTC for new or expanded facilities. JTC is the land developer that manages the Seletar Aerospace Park in northeast Singapore, among other industrial sites. Seletar Aerospace Park will be expanded to include nine ready-built standard factories for aerospace manufacturing and MRO activity. Current residents of Seletar Aerospace Park are also growing their existing facilities. Bombardier is in the process of quadrupling the size of its Singapore service centre. Component manufacturer RLC Group (Singapore) is also looking to lease an additional facility at the aerospace park.

Maritime Security Task Force to restructure, beef up assets The Straits Times 5th Feb 2020
Plans are afoot to restructure the Maritime Security Task Force to deal with piracy at sea, including beefing up its assets. Extra measures are useful to prevent more piracy and sea robberies in the Singapore Strait. The number of piracy and sea robberies in the waterway fluctuates considerably from year to year. There were 48 cases in 2014, 104 in 2015 and 31 last year. In the remaining seven years of the past decade, an average of 12 incidents took place annually.

Singapore Says Pirates Come from Elsewhere The Maritime Executive 3rd Feb 2020
Singapore's Minister for Defence Dr. Ng Eng Hen has indicated that the pirates responsible for recent incidents in the Singapore Strait are not from Singapore. The number of piracy and sea robbery incidents occurring in the Singapore Strait fluctuates from year to year. In 2014, 2015 and 2019 there were 48, 104 and 31 such incidents. But in the remaining years over the last decade, the average was around 12. He adds that "[a]ll perpetrators are based and operate outside Singapore's territorial waters, and therefore we are working with our neighbors to share information and collect intelligence.”

Thailand

Pacific Pathways in Thailand ongoing amid pandemic Army Times 2nd Apr 2020
US soldiers in Thailand for the Army’s Pacific Pathways program have continued training, though in smaller groups, as the coronavirus pandemic curtails military exercises elsewhere. While training is ongoing, the U.S. soldiers and their Royal Thai Army counterparts have relegated it to the squad-level. However, the Americans still plan to train until their return to Hawaii in May, which is also still on track. The task force is comprised of soldiers from multiple units, including engineer companies, an artillery battery, support companies and an aviation element. Pacific Pathways is one program the Army secretary and chief of staff have recently talked about expanding to increase the U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific region and court more partners as part of a larger Pentagon strategy aimed at China.

What’s in the Thailand Air Force’s New White Paper? The Diplomat 24th Feb 2020
The RTAF White Paper 2020, released on February 20, set out some key line items that the service intends to focus on in the next decade and beyond. It also specifies how Thailand plans on both replacing and upgrading existing equipment and also purchasing new platforms as well in the next decade and beyond, including combat, transport, trainer, and VIP aircraft as well as helicopters and fighter jets. As the white paper itself acknowledges, the approach is itself an admission that the RTAF cannot conduct a full set of replacements all at once, and that the focus would be on new equipment that can help it with its main missions including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and domestic security.

Thailand Mall Shooting: Soldier’s Deadly Rampage Reveals Security Lapses The Diplomat 11th Feb 2020
It’s still unclear how a Thai soldier managed to steal heavy weapons from an army base which he then used to kill 29 people and hold off security forces for almost 16 hours while he was holed up in a popular shopping mall. That he could is less surprising, say experts in military matters. Just a few weeks ago, The Bangkok Post cited General Apirat Kongsompong, the country's tough-talking army commander, as saying that “All weapons must be kept under good care and ready for use,” and reported that he stressed “the army will never let ill-minded people steal them.” Apirat clearly meant political opponents of the current government, led by former army commander Prayut Chan-o-cha. While details have yet to be released in this case, experts in military matters identified serious deficiencies in how the weapons were safeguarded. That Jakrapanth, the gunman, snatched three assault rifles and two machine guns from his army base and escaped in a stolen military vehicle “shows that the level of control over this base’s armory was woefully insufficient in terms of manpower and access restriction,” said Michael Picard, research director of GunPolicy.org.

Vietnam

UK Navy Vessel Vietnam Visit Highlights Defense Cooperation   The Diplomat 21st Feb 2020
The U.K. Royal Navy’s ship HMS Enterprise docked at Tan Vu port on February 19, officially kicking off a courtesy visit to Hai Phong that came as part of a series of commemorative activities for the 10th anniversary of the U.K.-Vietnam strategic partnership. The United Kingdom and Vietnam have a bilateral relationship that also includes a defense aspect as well, with manifestations including the U.K.’s sharing of its expertise to help Vietnam in its first UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, functional areas such as military medicine and hydrography, and the setting up of a new defense policy dialogue. British Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward framed the visit as being a demonstration of the U.K.’s commitment to security in the Asia-Pacific and an opportunity to further make ground on aspects of cooperation including the memorandum of understanding on hydrographic cooperation.

Vietravel Airlines’ plan for first flights postponed due to COVID-19 vietnamnews.vn 5th Apr 2020
The country’s newest carrier Vietravel Airlines has delayed its launch plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline was given principle approval from the Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc to start operations in October, but the plans have been put on hold. Founded by one of the country’s largest tour operators Vietravel, the airline is scheduled to start commercial operations in the third quarter of this year with a fleet of three airplanes, which could be raised to eight by 2025.

VN protests, demands compensation for fishing ship China sank in Hoàng Sa waters vietnamnews.vn 4th Apr 2020
Việt Nam has lodged an official complaint with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel near the Paracel (Hoàng Sa) archipelago, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lê Thị Thu Hằng, said late Friday. The Vietnamese vessel, number QNg 90617 TS, with eight fishermen on board, was fishing near Phú Lâm Island on April 2 when a Chinese marine surveillance ship hit and sank it. She said the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a meeting with a representative of the Chinese Embassy in Hà Nội and presented the protest note, asking the Chinese to investigate and clarify and strictly handle civil servants and the Chinese vessel mentioned above, not to repeat similar actions and at the same time adequately compensate for the losses of Vietnamese fishermen.

Vietnam PM approves establishment of Vietravel Airlines hanoitimes.vn 4th Apr 2020
The airline is scheduled to start operation in the second quarter this year with a fleet of three airplanes, which could be raised to eight by 2024. Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung on April 3 approved the proposal to set up Vietravel Airlines with a capital base of VND700 billion (US$29.72 million), local media reported. Vietravel Airlines, owned by Vietnam’s leading tour operator Vietravel, plans to provide charter flights for its own tourists and general passengers. In the first year of operation, Vietravel Airlines would operate a fleet of three airplanes and increase the number to eight by 2024.

Đà Nẵng to export aerospace components next year vietnamnews.vn 31st Mar 2020
The US-based aviation firm Universal Alloy Corporation (UAC) has put its Đà Nẵng facility into operation. The factory will be a sole-source supplier producing over unique 5,000 aerospace components for Boeing aircraft. Commenced in March 2019, the factory spans an area of ​​16.7ha with a design capacity of 12,470 tonnes of metric systems per year According to the firm, phase 1 of the Sunshine Aerospace Components Factory with a total investment of US$170 million in the Đà Nẵng High-Tech Park, will produce aerospace components to export to the global industry.

US naval ships’ visit to Việt Nam helps promote bilateral ties vietnamnews.vn 5th Mar 2020
The visit of US Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG52) to Đà Nẵng contributes to the development of the relations between Việt Nam and the US, according to spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry Lê Thị Thu Hằng. She was speaking during the regular press conference of the ministry in Hà Nội on Thursday in reply to reporters’ queries about the purpose and significance of the visit. Hằng said the US naval ships are visiting Tiên Sa Port, Đà Nẵng, from Thursday to next Monday, as part of the activities to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Việt Nam-US diplomatic ties.

Japan to transfer military shipbuilding technology to Vietnam VnExpress International 3rd Mar 2020
Japan agreed to provide Vietnam with technologies for building military ships at a meeting between their defense ministry officials on Monday. At a meeting between Koji Yamazaki, Chief of the Self-Defense Forces's Joint Staff, and Deputy Minister of Defense Phan Van Giang in Hanoi, the two countries agreed on several collaborations in future, including shipbuilding and economic manufacturing. Japan will also provide training in diving medicine and rescue and supply medical and rescue equipment to the Vietnamese Navy.

Vietnam wants ASEAN to "not have to choose sides": military official VietNamNet 20th Feb 2020
Vietnam aims to foster ASEAN’s unity in its chairmanship year 2020 to prevent the regional bloc from “having to choose sides,” in the context of growing strategic competition between global powers. Major General Vũ Tiến Trọng, head of the Institute of International Defence Relations under the Ministry of Defence was speaking at a press briefing held at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Retreat in Hà Nội on Wednesday. While Trọng did not specify the countries involved, rivalry and power struggles between China and the US put these countries at the forefront of specualtion.

NA Vice Chairman welcomes guests from US House Committee on Armed Services vietnamnews.vn 21st Jan 2020
Vice Chairman of the National Assembly (NA) Gen. Đỗ Bá Tỵ received a delegation of the Committee on Armed Services of the US House of Representatives led by Congressman Seth Moulton, one of the first US delegations to visit Việt Nam in 2020, in Hà Nội on Monday. At the meeting, the official also asked the US to continue paying attention to addressing the aftermath of war in the Southeast Asian nation, including unexploded ordnance clearance, dioxin detoxification at Biên Hoà airport, and support for the disabled and Agent Orange victims, while helping Việt Nam improve its capacity at sea. Congressman Moulton pledged support for the improvement of the Vietnamese coast guard and naval forces’ capacity.

ASEAN members and partners discuss defence co-operation vietnamnews.vn 13th Jan 2020
Deputies from 10 ASEAN member countries, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the US and Russia began discussions and shared views on defence co-operation in the region at the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Defence Senior Officials’ Meeting Plus (ADSOM-Plus) Working Group in Đà Nẵng yesterday. The meeting followed the ASEAN Defence Senior Official’s Working Group Meeting on Thursday and involved preparations for the 7th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting and the ASEAN Defence Senior Officials Meeting (ADSOM) Plus to be held in Hà Nội in August 2020.

Việt Nam boosts defence co-operation among ASEAN members vietnamnews.vn 9th Jan 2020
Việt Nam looks forward to continued support and contributions from ASEAN member states during its chairmanship of the ASEAN Community, and for the common interests and success of ASEAN 2020. Lieutenant General Vũ Chiến Thắng, Director General of the Department of Foreign Relations, under the Ministry of Defence, made the statement at the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Defence Senior Officials (ADSOM) Working Group in the central city of Đà Nẵng on Thursday. Thắng, who chaired the Working Group meeting, said Việt Nam set the following objectives for this year, including in the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM), promoting solidarity, consensus and centrality through consultation, sharing views and practical co-operation.