SINGAPORE: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is set to step up cooperation to counter terrorism, as defence ministers from the grouping identified it as the most serious security threat to the region.
The announcement was made following the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) retreat held in Singapore on Tuesday (Feb 6).
In a joint statement, the Ministers noted "with grave concern the rise of terrorism in (the) region, perpetrated by individuals and groups with increasingly sophisticated and deadly tactics and weapons".
They also said that the scale and complexity of the terrorist threat in the region continues to grow, with the influx of returning foreign fighters and terrorists moving across borders.
As such, defence ministers agreed to step up counter-terrorism cooperation to improve ASEAN's resilience against terrorist attacks, coordinate the response to ongoing threats and ensure recovery from any attacks that occur.
In light of this, the joint statement said ASEAN will boost practical cooperation through joint exercises and training, information sharing, increasing dialogue and sharing best practices.
The grouping will also cooperate to counter terrorist propaganda and instead promote positive messages of respect, inclusion, and moderation, including through developing a collection of regional counter narratives.
"Terrorism is a severe threat to ASEAN's progress, prosperity, and very way of life. We remain resolutely committed to defeating this scourge for the benefit of the people of ASEAN," the statement stated.
Earlier in the day, the ASEAN Defence Ministers called on Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the sidelines of this year's Singapore Airshow, where they were also hosted to a lunch.
During the call, Prime Minister Lee and the defence ministers discussed regional security issues and the ADMM agenda for the year ahead, in particular counter terrorism collaboration.
As chairman this year, Singapore will host the formal ADMM and ADMM-Plus meetings in October.
The 18-member ADMM-Plus involves other partners like the United States, China, Japan and Russia.