Shangri-La Dialogue: Ng Eng Hen warns of risk of parallel blocs

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen giving a sit-down group interview after the 2nd Ministerial Roundtable, during IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2019 at Shangri-La Hotel on June 2, 2019.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen giving a sit-down group interview after the 2nd Ministerial Roundtable, during IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2019 at Shangri-La Hotel on June 2, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Shifting economic dependencies could lead to countries forming parallel blocs - a situation which could set them up for conflict, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen warned yesterday.

Answering a question at the Shangri-La Dialogue, he said that if technological, trade or security ties "criss-cross less and less", then the world could end up with multiple blocs with parallel lines, and strong divisions between them.

"Then you are set up for con-flict, which was what happened in the Cold War," he said at the annual security forum, which ended yesterday.

Dr Ng stressed the importance of economic dependencies for security. "Because if I trade a lot with you, it is quite hard for me to fight with you."

In an earlier speech at the same session, he said the acceptance of the dominance of the United States and China would be diminished if their policies or progress were perceived to be lopsided against the national interests of other countries or the collective good.

"The challenge for both the US and China, amid their bilateral struggle... is to offer that inclusive and over-arching moral justification for acceptance by all countries, big and small, of their dominance beyond military might."

Dr Ng also underscored the role that the Shangri-La Dialogue has played in fostering consensus, collaboration and dialogue for a stable, progressive and inclusive region since the forum was started in 2002.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 03, 2019, with the headline 'Ng Eng Hen warns of risk of parallel blocs'. Print Edition | Subscribe