Vastavam web: Southeast Asian countries agreed on Friday to guidelines to manage unexpected encounters between their military aircraft, with host Singapore calling the pact a world first and saying they would encourage their international partners to join. The agreement, signed by defence ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a conference in Singapore, includes a region-wide pact on the exchange of information on terrorism threats.
“I am happy to announce the first multilateral guidelines for air encounters between military aircraft have been adopted,” Singapore’s defence minister, Ng Eng Hen, told a news conference. The ASEAN ministers will meet their eight international partners on Saturday and Ng said they would “seek their agreement” on the guidelines.
The framework for the guidelines said a pact was needed because Asia’s rising growth and prosperity had spurred an increase of maritime and air traffic in the region. But even with the existing guidelines, tensions remain, especially in the hotly contested South China Sea. China claims almost all of the busy waterway while Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the potentially energy-rich maritime territory. Asked if the sea guidelines were working, Ng said, “In a way they are like seatbelts, not completely protected, but at least they provide some protection.”