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ARF talks regional cooperation in maritime law enforcement

March 18, 2021 | 14:11

The third ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) workshop on enhancing cooperation in maritime law enforcement was jointly held on March 16 and 17 by the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the European Commission.

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The third ARF workshop on enhancing cooperation in maritime law enforcement (Photo: TG&VN)

The third ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) workshop on enhancing cooperation in maritime law enforcement was jointly held on March 16 and 17 by the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the European Commission.

The event, held in both in-person and online forms, was attended by officials, researchers, and experts on security and maritime law enforcement from ARF members and regional and international organizations, Vietnam Plus cited.

At the opening session, the Director of the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s ASEAN Department Vu Ho, who co-chaired the workshop, emphasized that seas and oceans are important to all countries, which share common interests in ensuring peace, security, safety, and cleanness for all sea areas. To this end, countries should continue cooperation, including among their maritime law enforcement forces, he noted.

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Director of the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s ASEAN Department Vu Ho addresses the workshop (Photo: TG&VN)

Forum's participants pointed out that apart from increased activities by maritime law enforcement forces, risks of collision and incidents have also been on the rise correspondingly. Although international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has certain articles allowing the use of force during the performance of duties, delegates stressed that this is just the last resort.

Besides, they added, the use of force must comply with common principles and processes and, particularly, avoid jeopardizing lives and be only conducted in the waters within national jurisdiction. Delegates discussed many cooperation models for maritime law enforcement forces, from sharing information, setting up hotlines, building mechanisms for joint monitoring and observation, and conducting joint patrols to developing a code of conduct. Agencies need to actively take measures to build up mutual trust and understanding to create a basis for cooperation, countries’ maritime law enforcement.

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The third ARF workshop was part of activities to implement the ARF statement on enhancing cooperation among maritime law enforcement agencies. (Photo: VOV)

The ARF, a security forum focused on the Indo-Pacific, has conducted two previous workshops on maritime cooperation since 2018. Reports on the workshop’s discussions reveal an emphasis on strengthening interoperability in counter-narcotics and anti-piracy operations. Reports also prioritize developing diplomatic solutions to disagreements among forum participants, said Foreign Briefing.

Today’s meetings come amidst disputes between China and ASEAN states regarding authority over the East and South China Seas. The conflict has sparked increased the US and European freedom of navigation operations through the contested international waters. Notably, today’s workshop coincides with month-long Chinese military exercises in the South China Sea.

The third ARF workshop was part of activities to implement the ARF statement on enhancing cooperation among maritime law enforcement agencies, which was proposed by Vietnam and adopted in 2016. This statement calls on maritime law enforcement agencies of the ARF members to strengthen practical cooperation via such activities as sharing experience and good practices, enhancing capacity, maintaining joint patrols, and organizing exercises to combat piracy and guarantee freedom of navigation and overflight.

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