The eighth Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri- La Dialogue, concluded here Sunday with defense ministers and senior officials from 27 countries calling for peaceful and cooperative solutions toward security challenges facing the Asia-Pacific region.
This year's summit kicked off with a keynote address by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who highlighted the geo-strategic and geo-economic importance of the Asia-Pacific region by saying that "much of the critical history of the 21st century will be written, shaped and lived out here in Asia-Pacific."
Echoing Rudd's remark, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that the United States has welcomed Asia's rise over the last few decades. He said that the United States' commitment to the region is just as strong today as it has ever been, adding that the superpower's prosperity is increasingly linked with the region.
Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, offered five proposals for the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
He stressed that multilateral dialogue and security cooperation mechanisms at different levels and in different fields should be encouraged, with an open and inclusive approach, in the spirit of seeking common ground while reserving differences, and on the basis of equal consultation.
"As a responsible major country, China has been playing an important role in maintaining Asia-Pacific peace and stability, making its due contribution in the process." Ma said.
Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Teo Chee Hean said that the Asia-Pacific region is gradually fostering a norm of dialogue, a culture of defense cooperation, and the acceptance of international legal mechanisms to resolve disputes peacefully. He said that states in the Asia-Pacific have real opportunities to build trust and enhance cooperation, for the benefit of all.
During this year's meeting, 22 Ministers and Ministerial representatives agreed that it is imperative to build a robust regional framework that could address various security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. They noted that the regional security architecture needs to be open, inclusive and flexible.
The Korean peninsula nuclear issue has been the focus of both participants and the press due to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) recent nuclear test.
This year has brought together for the first time in the Shangri- La Dialogue's history a trilateral meeting joined by the United States, Japan and South Korea to discuss a hot issue concerning regional security.
Speaking at a joint press briefing, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates reaffirmed that the United States, Japan and South Korea, along with other countries, will strengthen cooperation to try to resolve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue.
Gates said that the United States' policy has not changed. Washington's goal is complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and will not accept the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a nuclear weapon state. Japan's Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and South Korea's Minister of National Defense Lee Sang Hee stressed the significance of the trilateral meeting, saying that the three parties will further exchange views and enhance cooperation to solve the problem.
The Chinese side also expressed its stance on the issue. Ma Xiaotian spoke during the conference that China is opposed to the nuclear proliferation, and the Korean peninsula should move toward denuclearization. He called on all parties concerned to remain cool-headed and take measures to address the problem.
During the three-day summit, defense ministers and senior officials also recognized that in a globalizing world today, traditional and non-traditional security threats are interwoven and beyond state boundaries, and these global security challenges place a greater reliance on cooperative solutions.
Gates said that the United States is working with China on common challenges, from economic matters to security issues such as regional areas of tension, counter terrorism, non-proliferation, energy security, piracy and disaster relief. He said that it is essential for the United States and China to be transparent to each other and the rest of the world about the strategic goals, political intentions and military development.
British Minister for International Defense and Security Baroness Ann Taylor emphasized that protectionism and isolationism are not an option in defense and security terms. "By cooperating in a transparent manner the better we will understand each other and learn from each other so that together we are better able to confront the global security challenges that face us now and in the years to come," she said.
The annual Asia Security Summit, organized by the London International Institute for Strategic Studies, is being held in Singapore from May 29 to 31.
The forum brings together about 22 ministerial-level guests, along with parliamentarians, military leaders and security experts from more than 27 countries and regions for discussions on regional security issues and defence cooperation.