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IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2017 Fourth Plenary Session
Question and Answer Session
General (Retd) Ryamizard Ryacudu, Minister of Defense, Indonesia
Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General, Association of Southeast Asian Nations
General (Retd) Ricardo A David Jr, Under Secretary for Defense Policy, Philippines

As Delivered

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

The floor is now open for questions and comments. I have half a dozen people already, but let me remind you to tap your badge on the microphone and press the silver button to enter the queue. I will take five or six in a group and then we will turn to the panel for their replies.

Aiko Doden, Senior Commentator, NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation

My question is to the ASEAN Secretary-General. You have spoken about the hard-security front issues like fighting terrorism or extremism, but what about the human-security challenges, or the non-traditional security challenges that can turn into hard-security challenges? The region is diverse. Disparity is quite stark where the per capita GDP of the wealthiest is 60–70 times as much as that of the poorest. How can you transform the community into a community that shares and cares, as it aspires to do?

Ben Bland, South China Correspondent, Financial Times

My question is for Bapak Ryamizard Ryacudu from Indonesia. You spoke of the threat from radicalism in Indonesia, but how concerned are you about the growing social and political influence of extremist preachers in Indonesia, like Habib Rizieq? Thank you.

Colonel Liu Lin, Associate Research Fellow, Foreign Military Studies, Academy of Military Science, People’s Liberation Army, China

My question is for the Indonesian Defense Minister and the Philippine Under Secretary of Defense. Both of you mentioned in your speeches that Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are now conducting joint patrols in the Sulu Sea, and you also mentioned that China now has enhanced the defence cooperation with Indonesia, the Philippines and other ASEAN countries. So I wonder if you are welcoming the other countries to join in the Sulu Sea patrol, and because it is reported that the Philippines wants China to send ships to jointly combat piracy in the Sulu Sea, what do you think China and ASEAN can do to further enhance the defence cooperation between China and ASEAN countries? Thank you.

Prashanth Parameswaran, Associate Editor, The Diplomat

I have two questions, both for General David. My first question is, you mentioned that trilateral patrols are not just about piracy, but also they could be extended to include the South China Sea. Minister Ryacudu also mentioned that a third region where the patrols are based does cover the South China Sea. I am wondering, how do you envision these patrols to take place given the fact that the South China Sea environment is a little bit more complicated relative to the Sulu Sea, given the various claims there?

My second question is, you mentioned that the United States–Philippines alliance is a cornerstone for the Philippines, and there is already a lot of cooperation that goes on between the US and the Philippines in various areas. It is a very mature relationship. I am wondering if you could tell us what additional opportunities you see for the US and the Philippines to pursue in their defence relationship, whether it is in terrorism with respect to the Islamic State – also known as ISIS – or other areas, given the fact that we could potentially see a summit meeting between President Duterte and President Trump later this year? Thank you.

Professor David L. Shambaugh, Director, China Policy Program, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

Two of our speakers mentioned the framework document for the Code of Conduct (CoC). I would like to ask if there was any consideration given in the negotiations for that framework document to establishing parameters and caps on different aspects of military-related deployments on the islands and on the land features in the South China Sea – for personnel, for anti-aircraft batteries, planes, ships, etc. If this was discussed during the negotiations, why was it not included in the framework document itself? Even though it is not included in the framework document, might it still be included in the CoC discussions? I raise this because the issue of militarisation, or so-called militarisation, of the South China Sea is very much on the table, and it would seem to me that this would be an important confidence-building measure.

In that regard, I would just note that for China, there is a precedent here. When China established, along with other countries, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the late 1990s, such caps and parameters on deployments, on exercises, on pre-notification of exercises and so on, were very much part of the founding documents of the SCO. So might that model also be used for the South China Sea?

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thanks very much for that. I think there is an upcoming meeting in another context on this, but thank you very much for pointing that out, David.

Ekaterina Koldunova, Deputy Dean, School of Political Affairs, Moscow State Institute of International Relations

First of all, let me congratulate all the panellists on ASEAN’s 50th anniversary. I think that ASEAN is an indispensible organisation for the region. Two questions go to all the panellists.

My first question is, can the trilateral cooperation between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia mentioned here several times become a prototype for ASEAN military-security cooperation in the meeting? I do not mean building a military bloc, but rather a more enhanced military-to-military cooperation and inter-operability building.

The second question is that, being from Russia, I cannot but ask: do the panellists foresee any new prospects for ASEAN–Russia cooperation in the anti-terrorist sphere, specifically taking into account President Duterte’s and President Putin’s meeting in Russia? Thank you.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you very much. There is a proliferation of requests for ASEAN+1 meetings and we can add Russia to the agenda for the panellists.

Khoo Jin Kiat, Senior Reporter, Defense and Diplomatic Affairs, The China Press

My question is to the Indonesian Defense Minister. Maybe this issue is not under your purview, but could you talk a little bit more on the recent enforcement engagement between Vietnam and Indonesia in the Natuna waters? Thank you. 

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

I will turn back to the panel, then. I might ask first Under Secretary David to address the questions of joint patrols, enhanced defence cooperation with China, how patrols can be conducted in the South China Sea, it being a very contested environment, further prospects of US–Philippines cooperation, and ASEAN–Russia. I think all of that went to you. Then I might ask the ASEAN Secretary-General also on non-traditional threats and perhaps on these ASEAN+1 arrangements, then the Indonesian Defense Minister on the patrols. Perhaps you might also address this question on whether caps on military equipment to be put on features and reefs in the South China Sea was discussed in the framework agreement or could be discussed in the final context. Any one of you, in fact, might take up that important question asked by David Shambaugh.

General (Retd) Ricardo A. David Jr, Under Secretary for Defense Policy, Philippines

Thank you very much. I think the trilateral patrols in the South China Sea are not intended for the trilateral in the South China Sea. It is intended for the Sulu Sea and the Celebes Sea, which are the common borders of Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. So this is not a patrol in the South China Sea.

On the question on whether other countries could participate in the multilateral patrols, well, that would be a discussion among the three countries, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. But on the Philippines side, we really welcome a multilateral engagement in the areas of Sulu and Celebes seas.

We are not forming a military bloc; we are forming a defence cooperation. That must be understood by everybody, that this is a defence cooperation and a cooperation on mutual engagement or mutual cooperation in the Sulu Sea and in the Celebes Sea.

The other problems, such as the meeting with Russia, will be discussed among the ministers during the meeting in Manila as to what is the arrangement for the meeting with the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), such as Russia. Thank you very much.

Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General, Association of Southeast Asian Nations

I guess I got this question right, but in this forum we are discussing peace and security matters. But the work of the ASEAN community is not just about peace and stability or security. In the process of the development of the road map for an ASEAN Community 2015, and also in the process of the development of the Vision 2025 that would guide our work till 2025, we have tried to strike a balance in the work of the three communities, the Political-Security Community (APSC), Economic Community (AEC) and Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) – the three pillars of the Community.

Non-traditional threats are just cross-cutting, and we have in the Vision, as we have had in the road map toward the ASEAN Community 2025, comprehensive measures on this need to fight non-traditional threats. We do have the problem of implementation for the fact that, although we have achieved a lot of regional agreements and regional commitments, the rate of transposing these commitments and agreements into national strategies, national laws for implementation, is still modest. That is why, in the implementation of the new Vision, we have emphasised the importance of evaluation and monitoring. Before, we had only one dedicated division for the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the measures; that was in the AEC department. Now, we have that for every department of the ASEAN Secretariat, and the monitoring and evaluation of the work we are doing now is not just about compliance; it is about the outcome of implementation of the measures. This reflects our determination to ensure that the Vision that our leaders have adopted will drive our work over the next ten years and will be effectively implemented.

On the question of the framework for the CoC, this is only a draft and it needs to be endorsed by the ministers at the coming meeting. But the nucleus of the framework is to create a rules-based framework and a set of norms to guide the conduct of the parties in the South China Sea. It is to create and to ensure mutual trust, cooperation and confidence, and also to prevent and manage incidents. It is also to create a favourable environment for the peaceful settlement of the dispute and to ensure maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation and overflights.

The framework of the CoC is also to ensure commitment to the Charter of the United Nations, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and also the TAC – the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia – that now we have up to 25 non-ASEAN contracting parties. As I said, this is only a draft and needs to be endorsed by the ministers in the coming meeting.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Could I just press you on the point as to what you think the possibilities are to discuss caps on placing of military equipment on the islands or features in the South China Sea?

Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General, Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Well, I mentioned that militarisation in the South China Sea, especially in the features and the islands that have been illegally occupied, would go counter to the spirit of Article 5 of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, has been the reason of tension and would lead to the potential of conflict, even between powers. So as I said, the framework that the ASEAN countries and China have concluded for the CoC is only a draft for now. It needs to be endorsed by the ministers in the coming meeting at the nucleus of the framework that I just mentioned.  

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thanks very much. Under Secretary David wanted to add a few points on the US–Philippines defence relationship and also on patrols in the South China Sea, so I will give him that opportunity before going to Minister Ryacudu.

General (Retd) Ricardo A. David Jr, Under Secretary for Defense Policy, Philippines

We have just concluded Balikatan 2017, which is a US–Philippines military exercise. On the way forward to US relations, our defence and military planners are constantly exploring ways to move the alliance forward through establishing processes such as the Bilateral Defense Dialogue (BDD), Mutual Defense Board (MDB) and Security Engagement Board (SEB).

As to the joint patrols in the South China Sea, we do not have joint patrols. The US flies in the area in ordinance with the freedom of navigation and the Philippines does legitimate and regular patrols over its territorial and jurisdictional waters. Thank you.

General (Retd) Ryamizard Ryacudu, Minister of Defense, Indonesia

Thanks for the questions, I’ll try to answer them. The first issue is radicalism in Indonesia. There was a question about Habib Rizieq earlier. In my opinion, it isn’t considered as a higher or terrifying threat. People always say it. This is a legal issue. So, whoever implements different laws from Indonesian or global laws, they will be subject to criminal sentence. It’s done. So, we have not categorised it as radical. But ISIS is radical. Their actions are violent, that’s right. The police and the government are taking care of it. The speaker said that we must also know that we are facing common enemies. Therefore, terrorists are not a problem of an individual country, but they are a common enemy.

Right now, especially in ASEAN, we should not have conflicts. We have been together for 50 years and have built a stronger amity. We hope this will set an example for other countries, especially in the Middle East. There will be no conflicts here. Therefore, the purpose of any cooperation among ASEAN countries, also if military is involved, is regional security. If there are a lot of problems in the regions, we will cooperate a lot. But now there are three problems: one in the Sulu Sea, one in the Strait of Malacca and one in the Gulf of Thailand. Here, each related country has had bilateral and trilateral cooperation.

Last year, we planned to resolve piracy in the Philippines first, it is the main issue. Secondly, we have predicted the return of ISIS fighters, or that the southern Philippines would be re-established as an ISIS base, and it has proven to be true. Therefore, we have been cooperating in terms of regional security. Troops have been deployed to the oceans. In the past, large ships were always held in hostage, but now, they are not any more. In the future, the army and the air force will also work together. We have planned the deployment on the 19th of next month. If other countries, such as Singapore and Thailand, would like to join us, they are welcome to do so. If the problems spread, we will involve our neighbouring countries. Either requested or not, it’s our obligation to work together. Then the issue of whether they will potentially join in the Sulu Sea or not, it is possible. I have coordinated with the United States in order to see that if the Philippines is fighting in Marawi and its surroundings, we hope the fighters do not run away or get out of there to other countries, because they will go to Indonesia and Malaysia. American ships may block the northern area; perhaps Singapore can block the eastern or western areas, and Indonesia with Malaysia can block the other area. We have planned the operations.

The problems concerning the security of two-thirds of the South China Sea have been resolved. We can see that the South China Sea spans Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia respectively. If each country patrols its EEZ, it means that half of the South China Sea has been secured. We have patrolled. We talked about it some time ago. If we have patrolled in the region, it means more than half of the South China Sea has been controlled and secured. That’s what I wanted to say.

Then, for the question about the deployment. We have drafted a concept, and the three of us will have a meeting on the 19th. We will act in accordance with what is agreed upon.

It should be known that ASEAN is not a military bloc, but it’s a cooperation in terms of defence. Whatever happens in the ASEAN region, we face defence issues with the cooperation that we have agreed upon, and must be implemented.

Regarding problems with Vietnam, in my opinion, there is no problem with our amity with Vietnam. The illegal fishing issue has been settled. We negotiated with China last year, so that China may open up. We will not know what happens in a country if they don’t open up.  We tried to negotiate and China agreed; one of the points of cooperation is by carrying out patrols with ASEAN. Now that it is open, China is willing to carry out patrols with all of us – not a combat patrol, the emphasis is on a peace patrol. “Peace” is the keyword. I think that’s it for now.

Dr Sylvia Yazid, Head, International Relations, Parahyangan Catholic University

I do not have a question, actually, because it has been asked by others just now. But I would like to take this opportunity to send my heart and concerns to the people of London. Fellow participants from the UK, our deepest condolences for what happened. I spoke on the first day with a fellow participant from the UK, and Indonesia has been considered a strategic partner for this issue of terrorism, so I hope, Ryamizard, that we can continue to be one of the strategic partners in combating terrorism. Thank you very much.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you very much for those remarks. Indeed, all of our hearts go out to the families. There were six deaths and three suspects shot, and a number of further casualties in hospital, so thank you for that.

Sylvie Kauffmann, Editorial Director, Le Monde

This is a question about the terrorist threat precisely to the Indonesian Defense Minister and to Under Secretary David. You have talked about the trilateral cooperation among governments. Could you shed some light on the level of coordination between the extremist groups in your countries? Particularly on the operation in Marawi, what are the different citizenships of the foreign fighters who have been arrested or killed? Also, do you see a level of coordination with foreign fighters in the Middle East or in Europe who have pledged allegiance to ISIS? Thank you.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you very much. So, I will just give Undersecretary David and Pak Ryamizard a chance to answer those questions on cooperation between groups, and also on the nationality of foreign fighters, to the extent you have been able to identify them.

General (Retd) Ricardo A. David Jr, Under Secretary for Defense Policy, Philippines

Firstly, I will talk on the foreign fighters. Our intelligence estimates that there are about 40 foreigners that fought in that Marawi incident, but already eight foreign fighters that have been identified as three Malaysian, two Saudi and Indonesians were killed during the military operations. So we have foreigners of different nationalities operating together with the Maute in the area. They have a backchannel corridor into our country – probably in the area of Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea – that they can use to proceed to Mindanao and link with the terrorist units in the area. That is why they were able to master their operations in the area of Marawi. As far as our cooperation, our Secretary Lorenzana has been coordinating very closely, and our military, our navy as well as our air force.

For the joint activities in the area, this is what I will maybe say. This is a joint military operation, wherein they have joint operation centres in the operational grounds. They have representatives in our operations centres. So this is a very close coordination amongst our operating units in the trilateral boundaries of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Thank you.

General (Retd) Ryamizard Ryacudu, Minister of Defense, Indonesia

The first problem is the concept of how to deal with these fighters. This clearly begins with intelligence. Last night I was coordinating with Singaporean intelligence. They showed us 40 people having detailed passports with an address in Indonesia. Based on the address, we will investigate what the network is. But it cannot be done in a short time. It will take some time. Hopefully, we can uncover it quickly. The data on the passport are detailed. So this is the benefit of cooperation between nations.

Then, the handling of these fighters has to be thorough because they have not only lost the war and then returned, they will certainly perform another action. We must find the right way so that people do not protest that this is a violation of human rights and so on. But we have to keep in mind that they are killing machines – they should not be overprotected. These machines will surely kill. We should all agree that this matter must be solved. It will be done by a mutual agreement.

I also received a report last night that there are 1,200 ISIS fighters in the Philippines, and there are around 40 fighters from Indonesia. This is preliminary information. I hope we can soon develop and share this information with all countries, especially ASEAN. That’s it. So if they are already identified, we will act. Based on the information on the passports, we know who these people are. That’s all.

General (Retd) Ricardo A. David Jr, Under Secretary for Defense Policy, Philippines

In addressing the terrorism and extremism in the Philippines, President Duterte has an economic, political and social package for the people. There is talk now with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in order to have peace among these two rebel groups. This is very important, because most of the elements of the Maute and ISIS come from the area. So we need to remove the sympathy of the people to ISIS and extremists in the area.

On the political side, the President is now considering a federal system of government in the Philippines that would allow autonomy in the region. We believe that these very important steps of government is really for the peace talks as well as a political solution in the area. Thank you very much.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS

Thank you very much. Under Secretary David, please give the best wishes of the Shangri-La Dialogue community to Secretary Lorenzana, and indeed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as they have had a difficult time in the last few days. Our best wishes go to them. Let me thank you, Secretary-General of ASEAN and the Minister of Defense of Indonesia, for your presentations today. Thank you very much indeed.

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IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2018

The 17th Asia Security Summit will be held in Singapore on 1–3 June 2018.