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Chinese defence minister speaks at Shangri-La dialogue as regional defence tensions increase

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Chinese defence minister speaks at Shangri-La dialogue as regional defence tensions increase

lwx china 210519 110
lwx china 210519 110
Photo: Reuters

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe will deliver a speech today at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. It is the highest-ranking delegation Beijing has sent since 2011.

The traditionally neutral forum has become a contested space between American and Chinese interests in recent years. Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan is expected to announce further initiatives of an “Indo-Pacific strategy” aimed at containing China.

Washington’s strategy has centred on targeting China’s regional neighbours by strengthening existing military relationships with allies such as South Korea, Japan and Australia and nourishing newer relationships with India and various South-East Asian nations.

To counter US efforts to contain China, particularly in the South China Sea, expect Mr Wei to exert Beijing’s growing regional influence. To this end, he will likely deliver the conventional Beijing line that China’s operations in the disputed waters and general military upgrades are peaceful. He will also hold side-talks with South Korea in an attempt capitalise on recent tensions between Seoul and Tokyo.

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Photo: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro

By exploiting a wedge between two traditional US regional allies, Beijing will likely disrupt a key cog of Washington’s Indo-Pacific containment strategy for the foreseeable future.

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