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ASEAN Plus 3 Workshop Urges Cooperation on Disaster Relief

The second ASEAN plus three (China, Japan, the Republic of Korea) workshop on disaster relief by armed forces opened on Tuesday, with military officials from the 13 countries calling for better cooperation in the region on disaster relief.

Following the cyclone and earthquake disasters that hit Myanmar and China, respectively, the workshop focused on discussion of practical cooperation, such as the concrete coordination mechanism and standard operating procedure among the countries in the region, with officials making concrete suggestions.

Ren Xiaofeng, a researcher with an academy of the Chinese Navy, stressed the necessity for international cooperation within the ASEAN plus three countries, citing the close proximity of the 13 countries and convenience regarding culture and political mutual trust, and the common interests of these countries.

He suggested simplifying the procedures of coordination and deepening understanding of the disaster relief system of disaster-hit countries, in a bid to promote the speed and effectiveness of disaster relief.

Ren emphasized the importance of such principles as "humanitarianism," "respect of sovereignty," "respect of arrangement and deployment of local authorities" and "unconditional aid" in the practice of disaster relief.

He also proposed regular "ten plus three" meetings attended by persons in charge of national disaster emergency response departments of each country to build good working relations, sharing of information and experience and simulation exercises involving international natural disaster relief.

Cho Hyun Ki, a colonel of the ROK air force, suggested increasing mutual exchanges of rescue systems and techniques, including visits to national disaster rescue systems and search and rescue units.

"Training and exercises on disaster relief among ASEAN plus three countries should be enhanced," said Johanes Petrus Pelupessy, a colonel from the Indonesian Ministry of Defense, who urged cooperation and coordination among ASEAN plus three countries on disaster relief issues.

The Indonesian official added that national disaster management agencies should have the authority and funds to manage disasters at any time in the national territory.

He said Indonesia, as a littoral state, is located between two oceans and lies at the junction of three main tectonic plates; thus, natural disasters occur easily in Indonesia.

"There should be a good coordinating body," said Lt. Col. Wardi Abdul Latip with the Embassy of Brunei in Beijing, adding the mechanism should take advantage of different resources of different countries. For example, some countries have money, some have techniques and some have experience.

The workshop, to last for three days here in the capital of Hebei Province, was proposed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the 10th ASEAN plus three summit in Philippine in 2007.

At the opening ceremony, all attendees stood in silent tribute for a minute to mourn China's earthquake victims and those affected by the cyclone disaster in Myanmar.

(Xinhua News Agency June 11, 2008)

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