Asia’s largest annual security forum opens Friday in Singapore with territorial disputes in the South China Sea, North Korea’s military provocations and Islamist extremism expected to dominate discussions.
The Shangri-La Dialogue, organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), is to be attended by at least 20 defense ministers led by U.S. defense chief Ashton Carter, IISS Asia executive director Tim Huxley said.
Beijing’s claim to nearly the entire South China Sea has angered Southeast Asian neighbors and pitted it against the United States, which has conducted patrols near mainland China-held islands to press for freedom of navigation. The contested waters encompass key global shipping lanes.
The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims in the area, which is believed to have significant oil and gas deposits.
“There is much speculation about China’s next steps in the South China Sea, particularly in the context of an apparently imminent ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on a Philippine submission that challenges important aspects of China’s claims and activities there,” Huxley wrote in a pre-conference blog.
Tensions in the South China Sea are expected to drive up Asia-Pacific defense spending by nearly 25 percent from 2015 to US$533 billion in 2020, security think tank IHS Jane’s wrote in a research note issued Thursday.
Source: China Post