Defense Leaders Get Together For Shangri-la Conference
By Wendell Minnick
SINGAPORE — The eighth annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a three-day event set to begin May 29, will again host defense ministers and top-tier defense officials from around Asia, Europe and the United States at the Shangri-La Hotel here.
Sponsored by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Asian Security Summit, as it is formally known, has become a key annual event for defense and security diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific since its debut in 2002.
Speakers this year include U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Vietnam’s national defense minister, Gen. Phung Quang Thanh.
This is Gates’ third Shangri-la Dialogue, and he will deliver a policy address during the first plenary session on the U.S. security role in the AsiaPacific. Rudd will give the opening dinner address, the “first time that a political leader from outside Singapore has opened the Dialogue,” said Kathryn Floyd, IISS press officer for the event.
At least 27 countries — Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor Leste, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam — will send representatives.
The event offers bilateral opportunities no other Asian summit can provide for defense officials, said Tim Huxley, executive director of IISS-Asia. That has made Shangri-La one of the most important defense summits in the world.
Among the topics to be addressed during the six plenary sessions are the U.S. security role in the Asia-Pacific, the major powers and Asian security, building a security community in the Asia-Pacific, new military technologies, Northeast Asia security dialogue, enhancing maritime cooperation and confidence-building, contributing to peace support operations, modernizing armed forces in lean times, enhancing energy and food security, military transparency and security in the Asia-Pacific, winning counterinsurgency campaigns, and strengthening defense diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific.
Piracy issues are expected to be a major topic of discussion this year with the Gulf of Aden crisis and piracy challenges in Southeast Asia high on the list.
“Since its inception, the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue has seen proposals submitted for greater maritime security cooperation in the Malacca Straits, new bilateral relationships, and the establishment of a regional disaster and humanitarian relief center,” Floyd said. “Through the bilateral meetings between senior defense and military officials, countless other instances of increased cooperation and understanding have been cultivated over the past eight years.”
The IISS will also hold a book launch May 28 at the Shangri-La Hotel for two new titles — “Japan’s Remilitarization” by Christopher Hughes, detailing Japan’s path towards assuming a great military role internationally; and “China’s African Challenges” by Sarah Raine, covering Beijing’s engagements in Africa.
Boeing also will hold a roundtable discussion on the first day of the Shangri-La Dialogue with Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems (IDS). He will discuss upcoming IDS activities and programs, the status of the defense market and Asia’s importance to Boeing.