Shangri-la Dialogue Set to Begin in Singapore
BY WENDELL MINNICK
SINGAPORE - The largest defense and security dialogue among Asian nations is set to begin this week in Singapore.
The London-based think tank International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) is sponsoring the 7th Shangri-la Dialogue to be convened here from May 30 to June 1 at the Shangri-la Hotel. The annual event is considered the key defense and security dialogue for defense ministers in the region.
Since the inaugural meeting in 2002, the dialogue has grown into a must-attend venue for defense ministers not just in Asia but for military and diplomatic leaders from Europe and the U.S.
This year, confirmed delegations attending include Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China, East Timor, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, NATO, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.
"U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has confirmed his attendance and will be joined by many of his regional and international counterparts. In addition, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman will be attending. The Singaporean prime minister will deliver the keynote address," said Kathryn Floyd, dialogues press officer, Shangri-la Dialogue.
The event will be convened on the 50th anniversary of IISS. Founded in 1958, the IISS's early work centered on nuclear deterrence and arms control issues during the Cold War. Today, it sponsors a variety of conferences and seminars around the world, with the Shangri-la Dialogue considered to be its crown jewel.
"The dialogue also provides a forum for legislators, analysts, academics and business people to engage with senior officials in a manner that animates fresh policy thinking and innovative solutions to global challenges," stated an IISS press release.
This year's event will include six off-the-record plenary sessions and a variety of on-the-record press conferences. Plenary sessions include: Challenges to Stability in the Asia-Pacific; The Future of East Asian Security; Making Defense Policy in Uncertain Times; Securing Energy in the Asia Pacific; Restoring Peace in Complex Emergencies; and Modes of Security Cooperation: Confidence-Building, Partnerships, Alliances.
The dialogue has had some successes in influencing regional security issues.
"In previous years, the 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 centre," said an IISS press release.