The choice for S-E Asia isn't between the US and China

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At the 18th Shangri-La Dialogue, the premier annual defence and security meeting in the Asia-Pacific, concern about growing US-China rivalry was palpable. Senior officials from around the world delivered speeches expressing varying degrees of worry about the negative consequences of spiralling great power competition. This message was especially clearly conveyed by officials from South-east Asia.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his opening keynote address, asserted: "How the two work out their tensions and frictions will define the international environment for decades to come." Philippine Secretary of National Defence Delfin Lorenzana highlighted the "seismic geopolitical shift that is changing the very fabric of international relations in the 21st century" and producing "upheaval and tensions". Vietnamese Minister of National Defence Ngo Xuan Lich maintained that the "strategic-interest contest" in the Asia-Pacific is becoming "more and more intense" and "competition is now developing with complexity" due in part to "swift changes in the dynamic and balance of power".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2019, with the headline The choice for S-E Asia isn't between the US and China. Subscribe