Minister of National Defence Tea Seiha will lead a high-level delegation to the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and related discussions at the invitation of his Lao counterpart Chansamone Chanyalath.

The meetings in Luang Prabang city, Laos, scheduled for March 4-6, will concentrate on dialogues and exchanges about external relations with ASEAN partners, specifically aimed at strengthening the centrality of ASEAN’s response to evolving security challenges and mutual concerns.

Themed “Together for Peace, Security and Resilience”, the retreat will primarily focus on expanding the role of the ministers’ meeting post-2025, as stated in a ministry social media post.

It highlighted that discussions will centre on strengthening ASEAN unity through existing mechanisms like the ADMM and ADMM-Plus, focusing on relations with external partners.

“The ASEAN defence ministers will also exchange viewpoints on regional and international issues of mutual interest and concern,” said the ministry. 

According to the release, Seiha is expected to have separate meetings with some of his ASEAN counterparts to discuss enhancing defence cooperation for the common good, both bilaterally and multilaterally. 

The ministers are set to approve a joint declaration on achieving the master plan for the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) by 2025.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, noted that the retreat traditionally addresses various issues before a summit. With Laos currently chairing ASEAN, it is expected that counterparts will bring up security challenges such as terrorism, cross-border crime, drug and human trafficking and regional crises requiring effective resolution.

He added that ASEAN faces critical issues like the Myanmar crisis, the Russia-Ukraine war, the Israel-Hamas conflict and tensions in the Taiwan Strait. 

“Although ASEAN shows some division between mainland and island members, decisions are made based on consensus. ASEAN is not divided over this, maintaining both centrality and solidarity,” he explained.

However, Phea pointed out a flaw in ASEAN: members often prioritise their strategic interests over strengthening ASEAN unity, as seen in differing attitudes towards issues like the South China Sea. 

In the face of geopolitical competition, he said, ASEAN appears divided, with some members inclined towards China and some to the US.