Watch: China and the U.S. Talk Indo-Pacific Security

Published Jun 1, 2019 11:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

Patrick M. Shanahan, U.S. Acting Secretary for Defense, has presented the U.S. vision for Indo-Pacific security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Shanahan presented the main points made in the Department of Defense’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Report which was publicly released on June 1.

“We are building a cooperative, regional security network that supports common goals – whether maritime security, counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, you name it – across shared domains and in defense of shared principles,” said Shanahan.

“Our defense relationships are already strong, and there can be a tendency to focus on incremental improvements to our existing cooperation. But I challenge all of us to look beyond the present and envision possibilities for the future. We can and will do so much more. The new age of threats and the technologies needed to meet them will allow for improved partnerships whose potential is beyond imagination.”

Partnerships require trust to effectively solve problems together. Disagreements are ok, he said, and welcomed. “It is said that 'grit' is the ability to do something difficult for a prolonged period of time. We’ve got grit. We’ve been working this for 70 years. Our responsibility is to make this region more secure and prosperous for future generations. They expect – and we owe them – the same free and open Indo-Pacific that we have built and benefited from over the past 70 years.”

Shanahan, Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds and Japanese Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya convened a trilateral defense ministerial meeting in Singapore on June 1 on the margins of the Dialogue. The ministers affirmed their shared vision for an Indo-Pacific region that is open, inclusive, rules based and respectful of sovereignty, where disputes are resolved peacefully and free of coercion. The ministers recognized the importance of supporting Association of South East Asian Nations-led regional architecture and their support for ASEAN centrality which has played an instrumental role in establishing norms of behavior and habits of cooperation in the region. 
The ministers underscored the importance of the international community’s ongoing commitment to achieving North Korea’s abandonment of all of its weapons of mass destruction in accordance with relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and agreed to continue to fully enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The ministers welcomed and reaffirmed their commitment to sustained international cooperation to deter, disrupt, and ultimately eliminate illicit activities, such as illegal ship-to-ship transfers.  
The ministers discussed the importance of adherence to international law and their shared commitment to upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. The ministers remained seriously concerned about any action including militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea that are destabilizing or dangerous. They emphasized the importance of the peaceful resolution of conflict in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and expressed strong opposition to the use of force or coercion to alter the status quo. 

China's Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe spoke at the Dialogue criticizing the U.S. for naval operations in the disputed South China Sea, but said conflict or war between the two countries would be a disaster. “Some countries from outside the region come to the South China Sea to flex muscles in the name of freedom of navigation.”

Wei spoke of peace, noting the risk of conflict and war persists. "What is the cause for regional wars and conflicts, the spread of terrorism, the chaos in the Middle East and the refugee crisis in Europe? Who are behind all these and w hat is the root cause These are the questions to be reflected on. Some deliberately create division and hostility, provok e confrontation, meddle with regional affairs, interfere in internal affairs of others, and frequently resort to arms. Whose interests on earth do they serve and whose do they harm?"

He said that China sticks to the path of peaceful development. "Such a commitment is underpinned by China s socialist system, the independent foreign policy of peace, and the cultural tradition that values peace and harmony. China shall follow the path of peaceful development, which is a solemn commitment to the people of China and the world."   

Also presented at the Dialogue was: Korean Security: The Next Steps

Also presented at the Dialogue was: Asia’s Evolving Security Order and its Challenges

Also presented at the Dialogue was Preventing Conflict in Contested Domains

Also presented at the Dialogue was Ensuring a Resilient and Stable Region

Since its launch in 2002 the Dialogue has aimed to foster practical security cooperation by facilitating easy communication and fruitful contact among the region’s most important defense and security policymakers. Past speakers have included prime ministers and senior ministers from China, India, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Australia and other regional powers, as well as the U.S.