BRUNEI Darussalam and the United States have decided to bolster their defence ties by further engaging in closer multi-lateral cooperation, following a meeting between the two countries’ top defence officials yesterday, Borneo Bulletin reported.

Commander of United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) Admiral Harry B Harris Jr, who is in Brunei on a two-day official visit had an audience with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Minister of Defence and Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF), at the Istana Nurul Iman and also met with Brunei’s senior government and military officials.

At the Ministry of Defence in Bolkiah Garrison yesterday, Admiral Harris Jr paid courtesy calls on Minister of Defence II Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof, and RBAF Commander Major General Pengiran Dato Seri Pahlawan Aminan bin Pengiran Haji Mahmud.

Upon arrival at the Ministry of Defence in the morning, Admiral Harris Jr was accorded with a guard of honour comprising personnel from the Royal Brunei Land Force (RBLF). According to a statement from the Ministry of Defence, following the meeting, both sides affirmed the longstanding and close defence relations between both sides that continue to grow and strengthen over the years, particularly through Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), preceded by Exercise Kingfisher between the Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) and United States Navy (USN).

The statement added that the relations between the two countries are further bolstered by regular defence interactions under the multilateral framework of Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) such as military exercises and conferences.

A press release from USPACOM’s Public Affairs Office said that the US commitment in the Indo-Pacific is enduring and the military cooperation is founded on a platform of promoting security through rules-based international order.

It added that the framework is based on strong partnerships with a purpose and seeking ways to further meaningful engagement between the US and countries like Brunei Darussalam.

USPACOM’s area of responsibility encompasses about half the earth’s surface, stretching from the waters off the west coast of the US to the western border of India, and from Antarctica to the North Pole. USPACOM is one of the six geographic Unified Combatant Commands of the US Armed forces.

During his visit here, Admiral Harris Jr also participated in a roundtable dialogue organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and attended an honorary dinner hosted by the RBAF.

He also presented a Legion of Merit to the former RBAF Commander Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Major General Dato Paduka Seri Mohd Tawih bin Abdullah at a special event.

Admiral Harris Jr is the senior US military authority in the Indo-Pacific region and reports to the President of the US through his Secretary of Defence.

USPACOM is supported by four component commands: US Pacific Fleet, US Pacific Air Forces, US Army Pacific, and US Marine Forces, Pacific. These commands are headquartered in Hawai’i and have forces stationed and deployed throughout the region.

This is Admiral Harris Jr’s first visit to Brunei Darussalam since his appointment as the 24th Commander of USPACOM on May 27, 2015.