US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to speak in person at Shangri-La Dialogue in early June

The summit in June will mark US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin's first trip to South-east Asia. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - United States Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin will participate in the annual Shangri-La Dialogue from June 4 to 5 and speak on the US' Indo-Pacific strategy, the Pentagon announced early on Tuesday (May 4).

The summit's London-based organiser, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), added that this will mark Mr Austin's first trip to South-east Asia, and that on top of delivering an on-the-record speech, he will also be conducting bilateral and multilateral meetings on the sidelines.

Cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic, the Shangri-La Dialogue resumes this year as an in-person gathering of high-level defence policymakers from around the world, with an event "bubble" centred on the Singapore hotel it is named after.

Mr Austin tweeted that the event will be a "great" opportunity to discuss security challenges facing the Indo-Pacific.

IISS-Asia executive director James Crabtree said on the same platform that a host of ministers from Asia, Europe and the Middle East are confirmed speakers at the event in Singapore.

The names of other speakers and attendees were not immediately available, although IISS said more details will be shared in the coming weeks.

Last Tuesday (April 27), during their first bilateral meeting, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen invited his Malaysian counterpart Ismail Sabri Yaakob to attend the dialogue.

Dr Ng had an introductory telephone conversation with Mr Austin on March 3.

Dr Ng said then that he looked forward to working closely with Mr Austin to ensure continued stability, peace and progress in the region, while the Pentagon chief expressed appreciation for the regional access that Singapore provides to US forces.

Mr Austin is a former four-star general who oversaw US military operations in the Middle East under then President Barack Obama. His nomination by current US leader Joe Biden, and subsequent confirmation in January this year, made him the first African American secretary of defence.

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