Common hotline for ASEAN militaries to reduce misunderstandings at sea

Common hotline for ASEAN militaries to reduce misunderstandings at sea
Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen (4th from right) with fellow ASEAN Defence Ministers and the ASEAN Secretary General.
PHOTO: Facebook screengrab @Ng Eng Hen

SINGAPORE - During the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that nearly escalated into a full-scale nuclear war, messages between Moscow and Washington typically took six hours to deliver via traditional diplomatic channels. It was too slow to avert any potential crisis, prompting a hotline to be established in the following year, allowing leaders of the United States and Russia to have direct communications.

More popularly known as the 'red phone', the hotline has been used between the former Cold War rivals to keep both parties informed of military manoeuvres that may cause misunderstandings, such as the 1967 Arab-Israeli War when the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and the US 6th Fleet were both operating in the Mediterranean sea.

Amidst rising tension brewing in the region, 10 Defence Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) today witnessed the set-up of a hotline between their defence establishments.

"Just like people, countries need to build relationships and links to build trust and avoid misunderstandings. Friends exchange phone numbers so that they can contact one another," wrote Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen on his Facebook page.

"This hotline will reduce the risk of incidents at sea."

Other famous hotlines in the world include the Seoul-Pyongyang hotline, and the Islamabad-New Delhi hotline.

Dr Ng is currently in Kuala Lumpur to attend the annual ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) Retreat from Nov 2 to 4. Eight other nations (Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States) are also participating in a ADMM-Plus meeting, which meets once every two years.

grongloh@sph.com.sg

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