Regional leaders warn of disastrous consequences of confrontation
Collaboration and dialogue are needed to maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and major powers need to act responsibly, the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore was told this weekend.
Speakers at the 20th Asia Security Summit held from Friday to Sunday looked at many security issues and said they hoped that stakeholders such as ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, Russia and the United States can work out diplomatic solutions to problems and avoid confrontation, including disastrous conflict.
The President of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta, said on Sunday that while strategic competition is inevitable, the US-China partnership "should outweigh differences in other areas of competition and rivalry between the two superpowers to help peace in the region".
Just as the prosperity of the region has always been driven by shared opportunity, "the stability of our region can only be secured through collective responsibility", Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a keynote speech at Friday's opening of the dialogue.
"We have held to the common understanding that we achieve far more together than we do alone."
The Secretary-General of ASEAN Kao Kim Hourn, speaking on Saturday, underscored the importance of the centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the regional architecture, saying that ASEAN engages all its partners through its inclusive brand of multilateralism.
Loren Legarda, a senator in the Philippines, cited the role of the regional bloc that allowed Southeast Asian countries to engage all major powers to discuss strategic issues and provide a common vision in resolving economic, political and security issues.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin referred to ASEAN centrality while expounding on US military leadership in the region and expansion of drills with allies and partners, but failed to respond effectively to a question on the implied contradiction between US leadership and ASEAN centrality.
Yet he stressed that the US "does not seek a new Cold War", and that opening lines of communication with China is essential, especially between the two countries' defense and military leaders.
While he and Canada's Defense Minister Anita Anand accused China's military of intercepting US and Canadian military aircraft and warships recently, other participants said both countries should not be provocative while flying warplanes and sailing destroyers thousands of kilometers to approach China's coastline.
Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said conflicts in Europe and Asia will be "disastrous" to the future generation, and leaders must do all they can to avoid this "nightmarish scenario".
The China-US relationship is "central to stability", he said, and added that Singapore and other ASEAN members "are not disinterested bystanders".
Military spending worldwide has risen over the past 20 years, he said, reaching $2.2 trillion last year, and it is expected to continue rising over the next 10 years.
Responding to a question on Japan, he said: "The single most important thing that Japan can do for the stability of ASEAN and Asia is to improve relations with China."
Prosperity as goal
Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense General Tea Banh said that all the organizations should be congratulated if they are created for peace, security and prosperity in the region, yet if they "negatively affect stability in the region, we will have to find ways in order to discuss".
Indonesia's Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, in a proposal to end the conflict in Ukraine, called for a cease-fire and for a demilitarized zone to be established.
The zone could be observed and monitored by a peacekeeping force deployed by the United Nations, he said, and proposed that "the Shangri-La dialogue find a mode of …voluntary declaration urging both Ukraine and Russia to immediately start negotiations for peace".
Prabowo stressed that compromise and diplomacy are essential to peace and stability, citing numerous cases across continents.
Sagala Ratnayaka, Sri Lanka's Chief of Staff to the President and National Security Adviser, voiced his worry about increased tensions in the Indian Ocean region. "It is crucial for all stakeholders in the Indian Ocean region to prioritize the constructive dialogue in the pursuit of shared interests," he said.
Pio Tikoduadua, Fiji's Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration, stressed the unity among Pacific island nations. Amid tensions and conflicts around the world, Tikoduadua said small island developing states like Fiji "need to consider our own security and development first".