Korea, Thai Tensions Loom Over Shangri-La Dialogue
BY WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI - The 9th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit, to be held June 4-6 in Singapore, will take place against a backdrop of the recent Korean crisis and political turmoil in Thailand.
Called the Shangri-La Dialogue, the annual event has become the leading security summit for Asia and the principal vehicle for informal defense diplomacy among regional states and key outside players on a variety of issues, including regional maritime security policy, counterterrorism cooperation, and coordinating disaster relief efforts.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and U.S. Pacific Commander Adm. Robert Willard will attend. It is Gates' fourth Shangri-La Dialogue.
The agenda this year, as in past years, is very broad, said Tim Huxley, executive director, IISS-Asia. A variety of discussions and presentations will include the issue of "regional distribution of power in long-term flux, challenges to the regional security architecture, military modernization and arms buildups, and the widening array of transnational threats requiring at least some degree of military response," he said.
Of special interest will be the plenary and special sessions on new dimensions of warfare, offensive capability proliferation, the future of national defense industries, and new dimensions of conflict: space- and cyberwarfare, Huxley said.
"All this will take place against the background of significant regional security developments, including the recent political disarray in Thailand and the conclusion of the Tamil insurgency in Sri Lanka, as well as the Korean naval incident," said Huxley, who wrote the seminal book on Singapore's armed forces, "Defending the Lion City."
Though the dialogue deals with a variety of security and defense issues, the Korean crisis is expected to dominate this year's event. Discussions between U.S. and South Korean leaders over the North Korean crisis are anticipated, said Adam Ward, IISS director of studies.
Ward notes that South Korean President Lee Myung Bak will give the keynote speech outlining Seoul's position and its plans for dealing with the new crisis. South Korea's minister of national defense, Kim Tae Young, will also attend.
A May 24 statement issued by the White House said Gates would consult with South Korean leaders at the event.
"Secretary Gates is in close contact with ROK Defense Minister Kim and will meet with him and other counterparts at the June 4-6 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore," the statement said.
Ward agreed, saying Lee and his senior officials will have the "chance to interact and consult privately with U.S. Defense Secretary Gates, as well as ministerial-level representatives from Japan, China and Russia - and the United Kingdom, which as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council is also taking a keen interest in developments on the peninsula. That underlines the importance of the dialogue as an institution."
Ward recently contributed a chapter on North Korea's strategic weapon programs in a book, "Reconstituting Korean Security."
Founded in 1958, London-based IISS is a limited company under U.K. law and a registered charity with offices in the United States and Singapore, with charitable status in each jurisdiction.
Some 28 government delegations composed of defense ministers, chiefs of defense staffs, permanent secretaries, military and intelligence chiefs, as well as distinguished delegates from the private sector, will attend, including officials from Brunei, China and Hong Kong, Germany, Japan, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Timor-Leste, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.
These will include John Faulkner, minister for defense, Australia; Neang Phat, secretary of national defense, Cambodia; Adm. Edouard Guillaud, chief of defense, France; Adm. Nirmal Kumar Verma, chief of naval staff, India; Pradeep Kumar, defense secretary, India; Purnomo Yusgiantoro, minister of defense, Indonesia; Dato' Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, minister of defense, Malaysia; Gen. Tan Sri Dato' Sri Azizan Ariffin, chief of Defence Forces, Malaysia; Sergei Ivanov, deputy prime minister, Russia; Lee Kuan Yew, minister mentor, Singapore; Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister, Singapore; and Gamini Lakshman Peiris, minister of foreign affairs, Sri Lanka.
Defense News will be covering the three-day event.