PostHeaderIcon Asia's Leading Security Forum Holds First Exercise

Singapore's defence ministry said 21 nations including the United States, Russia and Asian Powers China, India and Cjapan were involved in the onshore simulated exercise held Monday and Tuesday. This is the first time an operational exercises has been carried out under the umbrella of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), it said, signalling the security grouping' progression. Such exercise are aimed at honing the interoperability of the different security agencies in dealing with potential threats, delegates said."With this exercise, we have taken a significant step in the right direction,"said Singapore Navy Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Tan Kai Hoe."The Maritime security threat has clearly moved beyond its traditional concerns of maritime piracy and armed robbery. "It is encouroging to note that the focus on maritime security is spawned by concerns that extremists could mount a seaborne version of the September 11, 2001 airborne attacks in the United States. Diplomatic sources have said Singapore is among, the countries which had been pushing the ARF to hold joint exercise. About 102 delegates, including military and naval officers, port authority representatives and policy-makers, participated in this week's event held at the Singapore Navy's Tactical Training Centre at Changi Naval Base. Participants were divided into teams and were tested on how they will coordinate and cooperate in dealing with simulated maritime security scenarios to complement discussions on information sharing and transnational security cooperation. "The very goal of trying to achieve interoperability between the operational forces -- that in itself...presumes sharing of information that could go a long way in combating terrorism,"said Alberto Aldvantee Encomienda,Secretary General of Philippines' Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Colonel Siow Chee Khiang of the Singapore Navy added:"What we hope in the future is to increase the complexity of the exercise, including the possibility of having access at sea to conduct a real exercise."The 26-member of ARF is the only formal security forum in the Asia-Pacific region. Foreign Ministers from ARF member states meet annually to discuss security issues. This year's meeting will be held in the Philippines in late July.str-mba/bgs