Southeast Asia security

HIGHLIGHTS: 2022 Shangri-La Dialogue – Defense officials meet in Singapore

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HIGHLIGHTS: 2022 Shangri-La Dialogue – Defense officials meet in Singapore

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

From June 10 to 12, top military and defense officials and diplomats gathered in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue, also called the 19th Asia Security Summit.

Over 500 delegates from 40 countries discussed urgent security challenges hounding the Asia-Pacific and beyond – the Russia-Ukraine war, the US-China rivalry, Taiwan, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, climate change, and more.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida opened the summit with a keynote speech on Friday night, June 10. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe were among the defense ministers who addressed the conference. The Philippines was represented by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Check this page for Rappler’s tweets, videos, and quick analysis pieces from the summit.

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Key takeaways from the 2022 Shangri-La Dialogue

It’s a new world. Are the world’s leaders, diplomats, defense, and security experts ready for it?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rightly shaped discussions at the 2022 Shangri-La Dialogue. Even the conversations about the United States and China rivalry were steeped in anxieties brought about by the blatant attack on the rules-based order that has kept at bay a third World War.

If Russia can occupy another country, kill civilians, destroy a way of life, do our rules work? What’s stopping another power from doing the same?

Ukraine’s war-time President Volodymyr Zelensky framed it best, as he addressed a room full of Shangri-La Dialogue participants from an undisclosed location in Kyiv: “It is on the battlefields in Ukraine that the future rules of this world are being decided.”

Under the harsh glare of the Ukraine invasion, other acts violating international laws and norms now appear even more menacing. It is much harder to trust one another, and especially difficult to trust the powerful.

The speeches by US Defense Secretary LLoyd Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe show this distrust. Of all defense officials present, their speeches were the most highly-anticipated. Each one got a plenary session all to themselves, while other defense ministers spoke at sessions in threes.

By tradition, the US defense secretary addresses the Shangri-La Dialogue during the first plenary session. No US defense secretary has failed to do this since 2003, according to the creator of the Shangri-La Dialogue, Dr. John Chipman, director-general of summit organizer International Institute for Strategic Studies.

There is no such tradition with the Chinese defense minister. There are years when the minister did not attend the summit and sent lower level officials instead. In 2020, General Wei had written to IISS about his desire to attend the next conference, which ended up happening two years later because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their speeches, Austin and Wei accused each other of violating the rules and bullying other countries. They also extolled the virtues of their countries and portrayed themselves as the benevolent of the two.

Ministers of US’ allies – Japan, Australia, France, South Korea, Singapore, and more – all oppose China’s aggression in the South China Sea as a threat to freedom of navigation in the critical waterway. But for China, as articulated by Wei, it’s US that is acting like a hegemon and creating “exclusive blocs” to “contain” and “confront” others. China is highly suspicious of the Quadrilateral Dialogue (Quad) composed of US, India, Australia, and Japan, and the AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) technology-sharing agreement that allows US and UK to help Australia get nuclear-powered submarines.

But China itself has a lot to prove and answer for if it is credibly be seen as a benign actor with good intentions, given its secretive build-up of nuclear weapons, island-building and aggression in the South China Sea, provocations against India along the border they share, economic arrangements perceived to come with strings attached, and more.

However, China also doesn’t want war and will do everything to avoid it, said General Wei.

As the Ukraine invasion forces the world to ask tough questions about the rules and institutions that had made the relative peace after World War II possible, defense officials and diplomats have the chance to build a new order based, hopefully, on what nations have in common, more than on where they differ.

Pia Ranada

Climate change as a security threat, ‘green defense’ as a way forward

The security threat posed by a warming planet and the nascent push for “green defense” was discussed by defense ministers gathered in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier security summit.

Defense ministers from the small island states of Maldives and Fiji made powerful portrayals of the existential threat posed by climate change to their countries, which could be submerged by the end of the century if the most dire climate predictions play out.

Security officials also discussed the ways defense organizations, including the armed forces of all nations, could reduce its carbon footprint to contribute to efforts to curb global warming.

Read more here.

Pia Ranada

South Korea says it will boost defense capacity to counter North Korean threat

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said on Sunday that his country would enhance its defense capabilities and work closely with the United States and Japan to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat.

Lee, speaking at an Asian security meeting in Singapore, said the situation on the Korean peninsula posed a global threat and he urged North Korea to immediately end its nuclear weapon and missile programs.

The United States warned this month that North Korea is preparing to conduct a seventh nuclear test, and says it will again push for United Nations sanctions if that happens. 

“The South Korean government will strengthen capabilities to better implement the United States’ extended deterrence, and we will strengthen the response capabilities of the South Korean military to deter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” Lee said in a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a top regional security summit.

Read the full story.

Reuters

Filipino foreign policy expert’s quick take on Chinese defense minister’s speech

For Julio Amador III, a security and foreign policy expert attending the Shangri-La Dialogue as a delegate, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe’s speech earlier today clearly showed how much the US-China power rivalry heavily influences Asia’s security challenges.

For one thing, General Wei spent a good deal of his address responding to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s speech the other day, and criticizing the Western power’s moves in the Indo-Pacific, especially in relation to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and Taiwan.

“General Wei’s speech today was a bit belligerent and I think everyone took note of that,” Amador told Rappler.

“There seems to be no admission at all that China has contributed to regional insecurity, as it were,” he added.

Wei portrayed China as a country that espoused a policy of “universal love, amity, and harmony,” preferred peaceful settlement of disputes, opposed “bullying” and “might makes right.” Some of the delegates given the chance to ask questions after his speech pointed out actions of China that contradict Wei’s portrayal – lack of transparency in its build-up of nuclear capabilities and weapons systems, its aggression in the South China Sea, its failure to strongly condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and more.

Pia Ranada
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HIGHLIGHTS: 2022 Shangri-La Dialogue – Defense officials meet in Singapore
Rappler.com

US, allies trade barbs with China, but Ukraine dominates Asia security meet

The United States and its allies traded barbs with China at Asia’s premier security meeting on Saturday, June 11, especially on Taiwan, but the war in Ukraine and a remote speech by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy dominated proceedings.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that Washington will do its part to manage tensions with China and prevent conflict even though Beijing was becoming increasingly aggressive in the region.

Read more here.

Reuters

Zelenskiy tells Asian meeting: Stopping Russian invasion crucial for whole world

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, speaking remotely at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, said the outcome of the war in his country affected not just Ukraine, but the future of international order.

His country is seeking to push the Russians out of areas it has controlled since early in the war, and is defending against ferocious Russian attacks in the country’s east, particularly around the city of Sievierodonetsk.

Read more here. – Rappler.com

Reuters