Shangri-La Dialogue, ASEAN calls for peace

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During the Asia-Pacific Security Summit in Singapore, the centrality of ASEAN, whose countries are calling for more dialogue at the international level, was reaffirmed

Editorial by Lorenzo Lamperti

"South-East Asia has paid more than others for the devastating consequences of the clash between great powers. We do not want this to happen again'. Ng Eng Hen, Singapore's Minister of Defence, made this clear in his speech during the last plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Asia-Pacific's top security summit held in the city-state from 2 to 4 June. Singapore and the ASEAN region in general once again confirmed itself as a crucial crossroads of global diplomacy. At a complicated time, to say the least, between the war in Ukraine and tensions between the US and China, the South-East is making its voice heard, asking world leaders for wisdom. "Military spending is also increasing exponentially in the Asia-Pacific," says the Singaporean minister. "It is not a source of instability per se, but in the absence of proper dialogue between the powers then it risks leading to a rearmament race that can destabilise the entire region." During the meetings, which were also attended by the US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, and the Chinese Defence Minister, Li Shangfu, the 'centrality of ASEAN' and the goodness of the ASEAN way was mentioned several times. And all the representatives of the South-East Asian countries emphasised their willingness to maintain relations with both Washington and Beijing, promoting multilateralism based on trade and international rules. But also and above all on dialogue. "Both Austin and Li assured that the US and China are not asking ASEAN countries to choose sides, but we also hope that these two countries can talk to each other again," said Ng Eng Hen. "Both have been in the Asia-Pacific for a long time and both will not leave. We have to find or rediscover a way to ensure stability and security for the region'. The same concept was also expressed by the IISS, the international institute that has been organising the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore for the past 20 years, where the intelligence chiefs of several countries, including the United States and China, also met behind closed doors. Proof, once again, of how Singapore and the South-East provide an exceptional platform for confrontation. If the future of the world will be written (also or especially) in this region, perhaps it would be worth listening to it.

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