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Philippines, Malaysia boost defense ties, urge South China Sea peace

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 11, 2015 - 6:14pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and Malaysia agreed to boost their defense ties, stressing the importance of freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) amid China's aggressive expansion in disputed areas. 

These topics were discussed during the meeting of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Malaysian defense minister YB Dato Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein on Wednesday in Camp Aguinaldo.                       

"Secretary Gazmin and Minister Hishammuddin exchanged views on regional and global security challenges and committed to strengthen defense cooperation between the Philippines and Malaysia," the Department of National Defense (DND) said in a statement.

"The two Ministers reaffirmed the importance of promoting peace, security and stability, maritime security, unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea," it added.

The two officials also reiterated the need to resolve the West Philippine Sea dispute peacefully in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Both the Philippines and Malaysia are claimants in the West Philippine Sea territorial dispute along with China, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.

China has been occupying disputed areas in the potentially oil and gas rich area to assert its territorial claim, raising concerns among its neighbors and the international community.

The Philippines has filed a complaint against China's expansive territorial claims before the international arbitral tribunal but China refused to respond to it.

The DND said Gazmin and Hishammuddin have also expressed "serious concern" over the violent acts of Islamic State and other extremist groups in Iraq and Syria.

They also agreed to strengthen efforts that would improve their countries' disaster response capabilities.

"The two ministers encouraged their respective militaries to pursue additional opportunities for engagement in the areas of HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster response), peacekeeping, maritime security and military medicine, among others," the DND said.

"They stated their intention to promote defense industry cooperation by encouraging industrial cooperation and facilitating the development of technology, commercial and economic links between defense related companies of the two countries," it added.

Hishammuddin also invited Gazmin to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) and the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition to be held this month in Malaysia.

The defense ministers meeting will be held on March 15 to 16 while the aerospace exhibition will be held on March 17 to 21.

First convened in 2006, the ADMM aims to promote mutual trust and confidence through greater understanding of defense and security challenges in the region.

ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS DEFENSE MINISTERS BOTH THE PHILIPPINES AND MALAYSIA BRUNEI AND TAIWAN CAMP AGUINALDO CHINA DEFENSE PHILIPPINES AND MALAYSIA SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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