Strengthened resolve to prevent conflict from occurring in Asia, says Ng Eng Hen at Shangri-La Dialogue


Dr Ng also addressed questions on the interactions between the United States and China, following a meeting between ​​US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun on Friday. 

This was the first substantive face-to-face talks between the two countries’ defence chiefs in 18 months.

Both leaders discussed Taiwan, the war between Russia and Ukraine, as well as the conflict in Gaza. A Chinese defence spokesperson had told reporters that the talks were “positive, practical and constructive”.

In his speech at the summit on Saturday morning, Mr Austin stressed that the Indo-Pacific region remained a “priority” for Washington and that the US was secure “only if Asia is”.

His remarks come amid increasing concern that Washington’s focus on helping Ukraine counter Russia’s invasion and support for Israel’s war in Gaza, while trying to ensure that that conflict does not spread, has taken away attention from the Indo-Pacific.

Mr Austin also said that the US and China would resume military-to-military communications “in the coming months”, as Beijing hailed the “stabilising” security relations between both countries.

Responding to CNA’s question on Singapore’s role in the interactions between the US and China, Dr Ng said the country is “realistic” and does not have outsized aspirations or strategic overstretch. 

“The problems that China and US face, only China and US can solve. They are major powers and how can we think that we have a major impact on the course?” said the defence minister. 

But what Singapore can do is provide a place for various countries – even those with different views and perspectives – to want to come together, he added. 

“Their presence here also expresses a desire to listen. Otherwise, why would you come for a meeting to hear views?”

He also said that the dialogue has become “more real” over the years, dealing with actual issues, looking for solutions and listening to different views. 

“So as long as we think that there’s value there, Singapore will continue to play that role,” Dr Ng added.

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