Singapore (Earth Times)- Asia's top security forum began its annual meeting on Thursday to discuss measures that will make member- countries more responsive in dealing with the challenges in the region, especially in the area of disaster response. Foreign ministers of the 27-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum (ARF) were to focus on improving disaster planning and response in the wake of the deadly cyclone that devastated Myanmar and the earthquake that wrecked havoc in China.
The group was also scheduled to discuss concrete and practical cooperation among member countries in dealing with common security challenges.
ARF spokesman Andrew Tan said the recent calamities that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Myanmar, China and the Philippines pushed emergency planning and disaster response to the top of the agenda.
Tan said a joint civilian-military disaster relief exercise is expected to be considered, among other measures.
Although ARF foreign ministers adopted a statement on disaster management in 2006, two years after the Asian tsunami that killed 220,000 people, aid workers noted little else had emerged from the group regarding emergency relief.
The ARF includes the 10 members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus Australia, Canada, the European Union, New Zealand, the United States, Russia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Pakistan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Japan, China and India.
Tan said North Korea and Myanmar will be discussed in the day-long meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expected to brief the other ministers on the outcome of the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme that took place Wednesday.