S.E. Asian Nations Step Up Cooperation As Islamic State Threat Mounts

S.E. Asian Nations Step Up Cooperation As Islamic State Threat Mounts

Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines are committed to strengthening their cooperation on defense to stem the movement of militants and combat piracy across their porous borders, Indonesian minister said on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore.

Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said the current terrorism threat in Southeast Asia - home to the world's largest Muslim-majority nation and over half a billion people - is "unprecedented", as he pledged to share intelligence information with other nations in the annual Shangri-La dialogue.

"We need to make it concrete in some form, so we implemented a trilateral meeting between the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia,” Ryacudu said. “The first objective is to secure against pirates and bandits. Secondly, because these places are potential base for Islamic State."

Dozens of fighters from Indonesia and Malaysia are believed to have made their way into Mindanao in the southern Philippines, where Islamic State-linked militants have mounted a prolonged siege against security forces, in an attempt to establish a caliphate.

The three nations also plan to launch joint air patrols at their shared boundaries in the Sulu Sea in addition to existing maritime patrols, but concrete plans will decide after another meeting in mid-June.

"Last year we started joint maritime patrols among the three countries. The results are that at least the bigger coal barges and ships are no longer being hijacked frequently," the defense minister added.