Supporting the kind of region we want

In tougher strategic times, ASEAN stands as a crucial forum to ensure competition doesn’t tip into confrontation.

When most people think of Siem Reap in Cambodia, they think of the historic temples of Angkor Wat, which sit just outside the city bounds. They don’t think of it as the focal point for managing geostrategic competition. But last week, that’s just what it was.

I was privileged to represent Australia from 22–24 November at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (the “ADMM-Plus”). The ADMM-Plus is the region’s premier defence dialogue. It brings together 18 countries to discuss the key challenges facing the Indo-Pacific, and builds important habits of cooperation across the region.

During my two-and-a-bit days in Siem Reap, I met 14 of my counterparts. This included dinner with the US Secretary of Defense, high-level discussions with Cambodia, time spent with the defence ministers of Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, New Zealand and Brunei, and bilateral talks with my counterparts from China, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, South Korea, Japan and India.

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