(Asia Development )Shangri-La Latest: US, China Strike Upbeat Tone After Meeting

June 10, 2022

China and the US are using the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue to press their competing visions for regional stability, even as the war in Ukraine consumes Washington’s attention and Beijing struggles with economic pressures at home.

The US is seeking to use the three-day conference to establish guardrails to prevent competition from getting out of hand. The meeting comes as the war in Ukraine consumes Washington’s attention and Beijing struggles with economic pressures at home.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, a key US ally, set out his views on expanding the US concept of a free and open Asia Pacific region in a speech with an eye to the war on Ukraine and China’s military assertiveness. Many nations attending have resisted pressure to take sides and have sought to avoid getting caught in the middle.

Key Developments

  • Japan’s PM Kishida Pledges Expanded Security Role in Asia

  • US, China Defense Chiefs Plan More Talks After Debating Taiwan

  • Marcos Calls China ‘Strongest Partner’ Amid Renewed Sea Tension

  • Japan’s Leader Ramps Up Drive to Counter China in Southeast Asia

  • Biden Team Sees Path to More Sway in Asia as Xi Moves Stall

  • Putin’s War Forces Biden to Rewrite Security Plan, Nod to Europe

(All times Singapore)

Japan’s Pledges Expanded Security Role in Asia (8:30 p.m.)

Kishida vowed his country would expand its security role in Asia, in a speech at an international security forum in Singapore.

“I myself have a strong sense of urgency that ‘Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow,’” he said in a keynote address.

He reiterated his view that peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait “is also of extreme importance.”

US, China Defense Chiefs Agree to More Talks (6:41 p.m.)

A senior US defense official said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his China counterpart agreed to more talks after discussing Taiwan in a meeting that went on for about an hour.

Austin used his first in-person meeting with China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe to renew calls for more measures to keep future crises from escalating into conflict, according to a readout from the Pentagon.

China Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said both sides agreed to keep communicating. Friday’s talk was a “good start” to resuming normal military dialog, he added.

Austin, Wei Finish Meeting at Sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue (6:31 p.m.)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe met for nearly an hour at the sidelines of the regional security forum. Wei described the meeting as “candid” in response to a shouted question.

Marcos Calls China ‘Strongest Partner’ in Pandemic Recovery (5:37 p.m.)

Philippine President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said China is his nation’s “strongest partner” in pandemic recovery, amid renewed tensions in the South China Sea.

The Philippines’ relationship with China is “very important” and “advantageous to both countries,” Marcos said Friday during a livestreamed event. He also pledged to pursue an independent foreign policy, while fostering people-to-people ties with Beijing.

War in Ukraine Should Be ‘Wake Up Call’ for Taiwan, Ex-Minister Says (4:40 p.m.)

The war in Ukraine should provide a “wake up call” for Taipei to develop asymmetric defense capabilities against China, according to Taiwan’s former national defense minister Andrew Yang.

The self-governing island should seek “small, cost effective, agile” systems that can deter and defeat a Chinese invasion, but Taiwan’s military has, for too long, sought to buy “expensive toys” such as fighter jets, submarines and Abrams tanks, Yang said.

Changing will require a great deal of political effort, said Yang, adding that Taiwan’s armed forces have long clung to a “traditional conception of war” which relies on large, expensive weapons systems. “I hope the lessons of Ukraine will be learned,” he said.

Taiwan Gets ‘Modicum of Time’ With War in Ukraine, Analyst Says (4:25 p.m.)

Military leaders from across Asia are assessing the potential impact of the war in Ukraine on the region, especially Taiwan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war has likely “bought Taiwan a modicum of time” when it comes to Beijing’s ambitions to rule the island, but it won’t dissuade China from its ultimate aims, said Andrew S. Erickson, Research Director in the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute.

“Putin’s failure to achieve his original objective in Ukraine has to be very sobering for the PLA and for Xi. They clearly overestimated Russia’s military capabilities,” Erickson said.

Still, the People’s Liberation Army is likely to be taking lessons from the conflict. “One of the lessons the PLA will take is the need to apply overwhelming firepower in the first phase of a conflict, leveraging the growth of the PLA rocket force,” he said.

India Keeps Low Profile at Singapore Meeting (4 p.m.)

As the US and China look to flesh out their competing visions for Asia at the Shangri-La, another regional power kept a low profile. India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh is not in attendance this year.

Instead, the highest-ranking member of the Indian delegation is Vice Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command.

“India’s diminished presence at the Dialogue deprives it of an opportunity to have its views on Indo-Pacific security disseminated and to engage other countries,” said Ankit Panda, Stanton Senior Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The defense minister’s absence is conspicuous.”

China, US Defense Chiefs to Talk Today in Singapore: CCTV (3:01 p.m.)

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe will talk with U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin this afternoon in Singapore, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

China Requests an Austin Meeting During His Asia Visit, US Says

Indonesia Seeks a Resolution on All South China Sea Issues (1 p.m.)

Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto said he wanted to see a resolution to all outstanding issues in the South China Sea. He added that Southeast Asia speaking with one voice may help bring about a resolution between China and US.

“We consider China to be a good friend of Indonesia, and we consider the United States to be a good friend of Indonesia,” he said after meeting with his Singapore counterpart. “If two good friends have problems, as a good friend we have to maybe be a bridge so that we can find a resolution.”

IISS Doesn’t See Breakthrough in US-China Talks (10:40 a.m.)

James Crabtree, executive director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Singapore, said while the focus is on the US and Chinese defense chiefs as they meet on the sidelines of the conference, it remains unlikely there’s going to be any kind of breakthrough on new areas of cooperation between the two sides.

“You look during the Ukraine crisis — that has reinforced in the eyes of both the Americans and the Chinese that they’re not really acting in a way that is honest and forthright with each other,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “So part of the problem is it’s hard to see how you get better results out of that relationship.”

Bilateral Talks Begin at Forum Venue (10 a.m)

A flurry of bilateral talks between defense ministers have started in Singapore. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Singaporean counterpart Ng Eng Hen had one of the first bilateral discussions.

The two leaders agreed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could have ramifications on security and the international community must stay “tightly engaged” to support Ukraine, according to a readout of the meeting.

The key bilateral event to watch for is the US-China meeting between Austin and China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe. This is the first time they are meeting and follows a phone call in April.

Japan Leader to Address Forum and Back US Efforts (5 a.m.)

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who had persuaded some traditional Southeast Asian partners of Russia to criticize its war in Ukraine, will use a keynote speech to bring others in Asia aboard.

He becomes the first Japanese premier since 2014 to give an address at a regional security conference. Kishida has taken a tough stance on Russia’s attack on Ukraine and made frequent veiled warnings about the risk of a similar grab for territory by China.

Pentagon Chief in Singapore as US Builds on Asia Pledges (6:30 p.m.)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin landed in Singapore Thursday night as the US continues to signpost its commitment to Asia.

A senior US defense official, who briefed reporters ahead of Austin’s arrival, said that the region has seen a clear trend toward self-isolating behavior by China and that countries across the region are concerned by aggressive Chinese behavior. The official said that the example of Ukraine looms large in the region, demonstrating the risks of disorder and spheres of influence.

The Pentagon is working to ensure a planned meeting with China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe will be professional and substantive, the official said. The US has no desire to create a public spectacle, the official said, referring to testy public exchanges between the US and China in recent years. The official said that the US places a priority on improving crisis communications with the country.

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