Chapter Two > Outcome Five: Strategic Policy > Defence Cooperation > South-East Asia

Defence Cooperation

South-East Asia

Performance Summary

The Defence Cooperation Program in the South-East Asia region grew in 2003-04 by nearly $0.6m. This increase reflected the restoration of the cooperation activities that had been reduced in 2002-03 by unexpected international events such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome crisis and the high ADF operational tempo.

Defence cooperation in South-East Asia continued to have a strong focus on counter-terrorism. A Regional Special Forces' Counter-Terrorism Conference was held in Australia in June 2004, bringing together senior special forces and counter-terrorism experts from 14 countries to establish links and share information about national counter-terrorism response mechanisms and capabilities.

Defence cooperation with East Timor continued to support the development of an affordable, sustainable and modestly capable East Timor Defence Force through infrastructure development, language and leadership training.

Positive progress was achieved in the Australia - Indonesian defence relationship, particularly in the areas of senior-level dialogue and visits. Service Chiefs' visits, interaction between the Commander Northern Command and his Indonesian military counterparts and the conduct of both Army and Navy staff talks all contributed to the bilateral relationship.

Defence relationships with Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia remained strong and were sustained by broad-based programs of dialogue, training and joint projects in the fields of logistics, defence science and materiel. Developments in exercise programs for Five Power Defence Arrangements, endorsed by Ministers in June 2004, will see Australia continue to work closely with Malaysia and Singapore in developing a response to asymmetric threats, including from international terrorism. Defence relationships with Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore were strengthened by the contribution these countries made to coalition operations in the war against terrorism and the exchange of lessons learned from these deployments.

Defence's engagement with Vietnam included visits to Australia by the Vietnamese Minister for Defence and the Chief of General Staff. Cooperation on counter-terrorism, as agreed by the Vietnamese and Australian Ministers for Defence, commenced with an inaugural visit to Australia by a Vietnamese special forces delegation, and a joint anti-malaria project was expanded to include research on dengue fever. Defence relationships with Cambodia and Laos continued to develop at an appropriate level, focused on English language training and officer education. Cooperation with Brunei included several high-level visits and a fee-for-service aircraft airworthiness survey. Further work to promote strategic policy development was undertaken with Cambodia and Brunei.

top of page

Defence participation at regular multilateral Association of South-East Asian Nations Regional Forum meetings and active involvement in confidence-building activities, including the Shangri-la Dialogue of Defence Ministers and senior officials, complemented defence bilateral cooperation in the region.

Table 2.25 South-East Asia Summary(1)
$'000 $'000 $'000 $'000 $'000 $'000
Singapore 441 254 428 428 231 292
Philippines 3,175 3,047 3,424 3,424 2,879 2,531
Thailand 4,528 3,478 3,796 3,796 3,560 3,018
Malaysia 4,380 4,483 4,881 4,881 4,678 4,342
Indonesia 5,131 4,583 5,329 5,329 5,048 4,671
East Timor 8,715 7,504 6,864 6,864 7,076 9,397
Vietnam 2,233 1,421 2,161 2,161 1,898 1,365
Cambodia and Laos 970 1,017 1,059 1,059 1,000 897
Brunei 95 44 100 100 49 45
Total 29,668 25,831 28,042 28,042 26,417 26,558


  1. Figures may not add due to rounding.

top of page


Interaction with the Singapore Armed Forces continued at all levels across a broad range of areas, including high-level policy dialogue, combined exercises, personnel exchanges and training. The Singapore Defence Minister met with the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence during a visit to Queensland in November 2003 to witness the annual unilateral Singapore Armed Forces Exercise Wallaby at Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland. Defence Ministers met in June 2004 in Singapore at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue, followed by the Five Power Defence Arrangements Ministers' informal meeting, also in Singapore. Singaporean detachments continued to utilise RAAF Pearce, Western Australia, and the Army Aviation Centre in Oakey, Queensland, for fixed wing and helicopter flight training. Singaporean personnel attend a wide variety of ADF training courses and Defence cooperation activities. In late 2003, Singapore and Australia conducted a number of mutually beneficial exchanges to share Australia's lessons learned from operations in Iraq and the Singapore Armed Force's lessons from dealing with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome crisis.

Defence science collaboration with Singapore continues to grow, recognising Singapore's advanced capabilities in a number of areas where Australia also has a specific interest.


Australia and the Philippines held a successful Joint Defence Cooperation Committee Meeting in Canberra in February 2004. Defence cooperation continued to focus on education and training, and options for further cooperation on maritime surveillance are being explored. Australian support for the Armed Forces of the Philippines' reform program continued, especially in the areas of logistics management, equipment acquisition processes, personnel planning and military superannuation. Discussions on counter-terrorist issues were conducted, including participation by the Philippines in the inaugural Regional Special Forces Counter-Terrorist Conference held in Australia in June 2004. Exercise Dawn Caracha, an annual bilateral special forces counter-terrorism training exercise, was successfully conducted in mid-2003.


The tempo of defence engagement remained high. Two special forces exercises and a special recovery exercise were conducted under the Memorandum of Understanding on Combating International Terrorism. Strategic dialogue was enhanced by a number of senior visitors from Thailand, including the Supreme Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, and the Chief and Deputy Chief of Joint Staff. Australia also hosted a study visit by the Thai Senate Standing Committee on Military Affairs' Subcommittee on Restructuring the Ministry of Defence in support of the Thai defence reform process.

Australian training of Thai military personnel remained a significant part of the relationship, with Australian mobile training teams being utilised to deliver training programs and seminars in Thailand as well as a significant program of training in Australia. A number of joint projects were progressed in the areas of science and technology, logistics and materiel, including a review of safety procedures of Thai military explosives factories, aircraft usage monitoring and an aircraft structural integrity project. Low English language proficiency within the Thai Armed Forces remains an obstacle to achieving higher take-up rates for Australian training and joint initiatives. The establishment of a computer-assisted language learning facility was agreed to address this problem.

top of page


The strong defence relationship between Australia and Malaysia is sustained by a wide and varied program of cooperative activities under the auspices of the Malaysia-Australia Joint Defence Program. Activities included a resumption of the major combined land exercise activity, Exercise Southern Tiger, in March 2004. Professional contact between the two armed forces continued to be facilitated by the presence of an Army rifle company, a small Air Force detachment at Royal Malaysian Air Force Butterworth, Malaysia and multilateral exercises conducted under the auspices of the Five Power Defence Arrangements. The Malaysia-Australian Joint Defence Program also facilitates mutually beneficial professional military education opportunities and exchange postings, which have broadened into new areas such as aerospace engineering and materials science. Regular contact at high levels, including between the respective Secretaries of Defence, also points to the continued health of the relationship.


The bilateral defence relationship progressed well during the reporting period at a pace comfortable to both Governments, with the focus remaining on cooperation in areas of shared strategic interest. Senior-level dialogue included counterpart visits by Service Chiefs. The Indonesian Chief of Army visited Australia in December 2003, our Chief of Navy visited Indonesia in February 2004 and the Indonesian Chief of Air Force visited Australia in May 2004. Dialogue was further enhanced through the resumption of both Army and Navy single Service staff talks in early 2004 and continuing dialogue between the Commander Northern Command and his three TNI counterpart commanders. Other senior-level dialogue over the period focused on regional security, defence systems and policy.

Defence provided information analysis training to Indonesian officers under the Memorandum of Understanding on Combating International Terrorism, and Indonesian military (TNI) officers attended the Regional Special Forces Counter-Terrorism Conference held in Australia in June 2004. Further interaction over the period occurred through visits and conference attendances in the areas of mine countermeasure cooperation, peacekeeping, army aviation, air safety and military law. Training provided to TNI remained focused on non-combat-related activities, including postgraduate study and English language training. Limited combat-related training resumed in early 2004. Ongoing junior and senior staff college exchanges enhanced educational interaction between our militaries.

top of page

East Timor

The Defence Cooperation which commenced in February 2001 continued to contribute to the development of an affordable, sustainable and modestly capable East Timor Defence Force throughout 2003-04. Progress has been made in advancing leadership and professional military skills, and policy and budget development within the Defence Secretariat. There has also been significant infrastructure development.

An English language training facility was constructed and successfully completed on time and under budget at the Metinaro Training Base in East Timor. The English language training program in East Timor has moved into this facility and is successfully training Timorese Defence Force personnel. During 2003-04, four Timorese Defence Force graduates of the English language training program in East Timor continued their English training at the Defence International Training Centre in Australia. On completion, several went on to successfully complete the Methodology in English Language Training Course, which is required for them to become English instructors.

The second and third iterations of the Platoon Commanders' Course, a tailored ten-week leadership/officer training course, was successfully completed in East Timor. Graduates from these courses were identified for further leadership development within the Timorese Defence Force. In addition, a number of Timorese Defence Force members have successfully completed training at the Royal Military College and the Australian Defence College.

Construction of the Australian advisers' residential compound project commenced after delays in finalising a suitable site and in negotiating leasing arrangements. When complete, this project will provide a number of family residences, with support and recreational facilities, in a secure environment and permit Defence Cooperation Program advisers to be more effective through longer-term postings.

A project to develop a radio communications network, which will link the Dili headquarters with other bases and units in the field, was progressed.


Australia's Defence cooperation relationship with Vietnam gained momentum with inaugural visits to Australia by Vietnam's Minister for Defence and the Chief of General Staff. The defence relationship continued to expand through the development of strategic dialogue, an intelligence exchange and the commencement of counter-terrorism cooperation. A Vietnamese special forces delegation conducted an inaugural study visit to Australia in April 2004. High-level visits, ships visits, training and projects, including the expansion of the anti-malaria project to include research into dengue fever, formed the basis of the relationship.

Cambodia and Laos

Australia's bilateral relationships with Cambodia and Laos continued to develop satisfactorily. During 2003-04, officers from Cambodia and Laos attended Australian Defence College English language training, and Defence and emergency management training. Modest support was provided to the Cambodian Command and Staff College, assistance with the implementation of Cambodian White Paper initiatives and new cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism commenced.


The modest, but very positive, defence relationship with Brunei continued to develop through the conduct of mutually beneficial activities, exercises and training. Highlights of the past year included mutual cooperation in rotary flying standardisation, air safety, logistics and defence materiel. Australia provided technical assistance with the development of a new Brunei Defence White Paper, which was released in July 2004. Exercise Night Leopard, a bilateral special forces war roles training exercise, was successfully conducted in late 2003. In addition, Brunei participated in the inaugural Regional Special Forces Counter-Terrorism Conference held in Australia in June 2004.


| « Previous | Home | Next »