Defence Ministers discuss regional priorities at Meeting

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Nuku’alofa – The 7th South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting, which was convened at the Fa’onelua Convention Centre in Nuku’alofa, provided Defence Ministers and Heads of Delegation the opportunity to identify and progress regional priorities and cooperation at a ministerial level.

The South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting (SPDMM) is a key forum for Pacific Defence Ministers and Chiefs of Defence to discuss shared security challenges and enhance coordination on regional defence issues.

The SPDMM recognises that maintaining cooperation between regional Defence Forces supports stability in the region and helps to build strong and enduring partnerships. This includes developing the capabilities and capacities of the region’s respective Defence Forces.

The two-day discussions from 18 to 19 October focused on the following key issues:

  • Developing a Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Framework, including a HADR Standard Operating Procedure, a plan to transform Fiji’s Blackrock camp into a regional centre of excellence and, establishing Exercise LONGREACH as a regional HADR tabletop exercise;
  • Endorsing a regional protection of information-sharing arrangement; a concept note to refresh the POV AI ENDEA VOUR Framework; and amendments to the SPDMM Governance Framework;
  • Preparing a publication on how non-traditional security challenges are being addressed by the militaries of the SPDMM

Permanent members attending the meeting comprised Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand, France, Chile, Australia and Tonga.

The United Kingdom and United States joined as Observers, with Japan also joining as an observer nation.

The Honourable Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku, who is also Tonga’s Minister Responsible for Defence, chaired the meeting, with the participation of the Hon. Richard Marles, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia & Minister for Defence, Hon. Peeni Henare, New Zealand’s Minister of Defence & Whanau Ora, Mr Manasa Lesuma, Permanent Secretary of Defence Fiji, His Excellency Fran ois-Xavier L ger, French Ambassador to Tonga, Mr Kaieda Tatsuya, Japan’s Director Indo-Pacific Regional Policy Division, WGCDR Andy Bryant, United Kingdom’s Defence Attaché – Wellington (accredited to Tonga), RADM Michael Day, Commander District 14 US Coast Guard and Mr Juan Enrique, Deputy Head of Mission Chile.

His Royal Highness, Princess Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala with Defence Ministers from the Region and delegations. Photo by the Australian Government Defence.
Defence Ministers from the Pacific attending the 7th South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Nuku’alofa this week.

PC: Australian Government Defence