BEGAWAN, BANDAR SERI – On Monday, the United States’ top commander in the region met with Brunei’s sultan and senior defense officials to discuss ways to strengthen defense cooperation amid escalating geopolitical tensions in East Asia.
His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah met with United States Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral John C. Aquilino at Istana Nurul Iman, where the latter expressed “unwavering support” for the Brunei-US security partnership toward a “free and open Indo-Pacific region,” according to a statement posted on social media by the US Embassy.
Aquilino is the commander of the United States’ largest combatant command and has been a harsh critic of China’s actions in the Indo-Pacific region, including interceptions of US and allied aircraft.
He is in Brunei for a three-day visit hosted by the Ministry of Defence, during which he will meet with senior defense and foreign policy officials to discuss ways to strengthen Brunei-US security cooperation.
Aquilino met with Deputy Minister of Defence Dato Hj Abdul Razak Hj Abd Kadir and RBAF Commander Major General Dato Hj Muhammad Haszaimi Bol Hassan on Monday.
According to Brunei’s defense ministry, both parties underlined their “long-standing and close defense alliance,” which “continues to deepen and strengthen over the years through extensive bilateral engagements.”
Both countries’ armed forces participate in a variety of training programs and joint exercises, such as the annual CARAT exercise, as well as multilateral cooperation such as Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), Chief of Defence Conference (CHOD), and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus).
On Monday, Aquilino also met with Brunei’s Second Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dato Hj Erywan Yusof.
The admiral’s visit follows previous trips to New Zealand and Australia to enhance alliances and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.
Source: The Scoop