Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam's prime minister, seen here April 25, will deliver the keynote opening dinner address at the SLD. US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also will attend. (Roslan Rahman / AFP)
SINGAPORE — The UK-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is set for its biggest Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) since its inception in 2002.
Scheduled for May 31 to June 2 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, it will involve defense ministers, military chiefs and senior government officials from 31 countries. Known officially as the 12th Asia Security Summit, this SLD will be US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s first, and expectations are high that the Vietnam War veteran will bring a unique perspective.
Hagel’s participation takes place against a backdrop of fiscal battles and furloughs in the Pentagon, an ambiguous Asia Pivot strategy, and unanswered questions over the AirSea Battle strategy that is making some Asia-Pacific allies and friends nervous.
“More than ever this year, there will be ample opportunities to discuss and debate ‘hard security’ concerns, such as the implications of maritime disputes, military modernization programs and missile defense against the backdrop of the contentions in the South China Sea, East China Sea, Korean Peninsula, and over Taiwan,” said Tim Huxley, executive director, IISS-Asia, Singapore.
“We think it is important to provide a dialogue platform where these key security issues of the day can be discussed openly between key representatives of Asia-Pacific states’ defense and security establishments, extra-regional states with major interests in the region’s security, and high-level non-governmental experts,” Huxley said.
Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam’s prime minister, will deliver the keynote opening dinner address at the SLD.
“The Vietnamese prime minister’s participation indicates the crucial role the dialogue plays in inter-governmental discussions about defense and security in the Asia-Pacific region,” said John Chipman, IISS CEO and director-general.
Deputy Defense Minister Senior Lt. Gen. Nguyen Chi Vinh, who will also give a speech during the regular session of the SLD, will lead the Vietnamese military delegation.
China has improved its representation this year, Huxley said, with its delegation being led again by a three-star deputy chief of the General Staff (DCGS) of the People’s Liberation Army, “as it was in 2007, ’08, ’09, ’10. In 2011 it was the defense minister; 2012 it was a relatively low-ranking officer from the academy of military sciences.”
This year, DCGS Lt. Gen. Qi Jianguo will speak in a plenary session on June 2, “and is supported by a strong PLA delegation, members of which will be speaking in some of the special sessions on Saturday afternoon,” Huxley said.
“This year will also see a large European delegation: The European Union representative for foreign affairs and security policy, chair of the EU Military Committee, chair of the NATO Military Committee, and the Swedish foreign minister,” Huxley said.
Huxley called this evidence of a “European pivot to Asia … something we haven’t seen before at the Shangri-La Dialogue.”
IISS will launch two Adelphi Books during the SLD on maritime security issues. Sarah Raine, IISS consulting fellow for Chinese Foreign and Security Policy, and Christian Le Mičre, IISS senior fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security, authored “Regional Disorder: The South China Sea Disputes,” and Geoffrey Till, director of the Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies, authored “Asia’s Naval Expansion: An Arms Race in the Making?”
The SLD will include six plenary sessions on the US approach to regional security; defending national interests and preventing conflict; military modernization and strategic transparency; China’s role in global security; global and regional institutions and Asian security; and advancing defense cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.
There will also be six simultaneous special sessions, including avoiding incidents at sea; the Afghan drawdown and regional security; missile defense in the Asia-Pacific; new military technologies and doctrines; defense diplomacy and conflict prevention; and the cyber dimension to Asian security, which is an “IISS expert special subject.”