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Cablegate: Brunei Welcomes Usg Arf Proposals

VZCZCXRO0239
RR RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHBD #0049 0370002
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060002Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
TO RUEHCAA/SECSTATE WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN 000049

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/RSP AND EAP/MTS FORSYTH
DEFENSE FOR OSD/ISP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ARF PTER BX
SUBJECT: BRUNEI WELCOMES USG ARF PROPOSALS

REF: STATE 8005

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SUMMARY
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1. (SBU) DCM delvered reftel points on January 31 to Datin Masrainah
Ahmad, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and Trade. Masrainah responded that Brunei supported efforts to
strengthen ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) institutions and welcomed,
without endorsing, the U.S. proposal for focusing Counter Terrorism
and Transnational Crime (CTTC) work in the ARF. The Government of
Brunei (GoB) welcomes ARF initiatives in preventative diplomacy, but
favors a go-slow approach to ARF expansion until current reform
initiatives are consolidated. Similarly, the GoB is still studying
the idea of an ASEAN Defense Ministers Plus meeting, but wants to
avoid overlap or duplication of existing defense forums. END
SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) DCM delivered reftel points and non-paper on January 31 to
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MoFAT) Deputy Permanent
Secretary who covers ASEAN and ARF issues, Datin Masrainah Ahmad.

SIPDIS
Joining the meeting were MoFAT Director for ASEAN Affairs Latif Tuah
and the desk officers working directly on ARF issues. Masrainah
responded that Brunei agrees that it is important to improve the
decision-making process of the ARF, strengthen its internal
mechanisms, and improve the management and coordination of the forum
generally.

3. (SBU) On specific proposals, Masrainah welcomed the USG concept
for a more focused CTTC work plan. She expected that this would be
a major focus of discussions for the April meeting in Ottawa and
said that Brunei would like to see consensus reached in time for the
Ministers to consider at the July meeting. Without endorsing it,
Masrainah also commented favorably on the EU proposal to give senior
officials a broader mandate to to make more routine decisions.

4. (SBU) Masrainah said a priority for Brunei would also be moving
forward on the concepts outlined in the ARF Vision Paper from 2002.
The GoB found current confidence-building work very useful and
welcomed the recent move to work more on preventative diplomacy
capabilities. Brunei would like to see the establishment of a Peace
Keeping Operations Center, either as a new entity or as an extension
of the existing regional risk reduction center.

5. (SBU) On ARF expansion to new members, Masrainah was cautious
about endorsing any one view, but indicated that Brunei would likely
favor a go-slow approach. She said that is would be better to see
existing cooperative initiatives consolidated with current members
before considering expansion of the ARF to countries like Kazakhstan
or Sri Lanka.

6. (SBU) In response to our questions about the proposed ASEAN
Defense Ministers Plus meeting, Masrainah said that Brunei is not
ready to endorse the concept paper. Internal GoB discussions on
this are ongoing, and MoFAT is concerned about this concept
overlapping or duplicating existing Defense Ministers groupings in
the Asia Pacific. She said that ASEAN was exploring the idea of an
ARF Defense Officials meeting, with an emphasis on greater military
exchanges and table-top exercises.

SKODON

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