North Korea issue likely to dominate Shangri-La Dialogue

Security in the Korean peninsula will most likely dominate the agenda at this year's Shangri-La Dialogue, which comes less than two weeks ahead of a highly probable summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

The three-day defence and security conference, held annually at the Shangri-La Hotel since 2002, is seen to potentially set the stage for the upcoming United States-North Korea talks, which is said to be likely scheduled for the same venue on June 12.

Defence ministers, military chiefs and top officials from more than 40 countries will gather here from tomorrow to discuss security challenges and trends in the region.

Besides the North Korea issue, the threat of terrorism, future conflict and emerging technologies will get airtime.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the first Indian leader to deliver a keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue.

He is expected to speak tomorrow night on India's strategic role in the region and his vision for the Indo-Pacific.

US Secretary of Defence James Mattis, who last year devoted a significant part of his speech to warning about the dangers of North Korea's nuclear threats and galvanising countries to act together, will no doubt be asked about North Korea's drastic U-turn and the anticipated summit. He takes the stage on Saturday, when he is expected to explain his country's regional role.

A plenary session will also focus on the de-escalation of the North Korea crisis, featuring the defence ministers of both Japan and South Korea.

Lieutenant-General He Lei, vice-president of the People's Liberation Army's Academy of Military Sciences, will be the top representative from China.

This year's dialogue also sees the strongest cohort of defence ministers attending. More than 10, including Ms Marise Payne of Australia, Mr Harjit Singh Sajjan of Canada and General Ryamizard Ryacudu of Indonesia, will speak at various sessions on Saturday.

These discussions will include the Rohingya crisis, competition and cooperation in the Indian Ocean region, and enhancing maritime security.

New defence chiefs such as Britain's Mr Gavin Williamson, France's Ms Florence Parly and Malaysia's Mr Mohamad Sabu will also rub shoulders with seasoned counterparts.

President Halimah Yacob will host a reception and dinner at the Istana on Saturday, while Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen hosts the ministerial roundtable, a key feature of the conference.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2018, with the headline 'North Korea issue likely to dominate Shangri-La Dialogue'. Print Edition | Subscribe