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Asia lacks collective resolve against war, says Ng Eng Hen

Asia lacks a collective and binding aversion to war, said Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, calling it a "stark deficit" for Asia when it comes to avoiding regional conflict.

SINGAPORE: Asia lacks a collective and binding aversion to war, said Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, calling it a "stark deficit" for Asia when it comes to avoiding regional conflict.

Dr Ng was speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security summit in Singapore.

"Asia does not have the equivalent of the "never again" resolve that bound all of Europe after two World Wars, (which) translated into political will to create formal structures and alliances to avoid war.

"The restraining force hitherto has been economic development for each own's interest," said Dr Ng.

Converging economic interests of different Asian countries have brought wealth and progress to the region, but Dr Ng warned of threats from competition for resources, sovereignty disputes and uncertain economic growth.

He said Asia's political challenge is to ensure individual countries' aspirations and ambitions intersect as widely as possible, but recent incidents in the East and South China Sea do not show that Asia's trajectory is on that virtuous path.

To address the region's lack of what he called "strategic trust", Dr Ng said Asia needs to step up practical military cooperation.

Another way to build trust, he said, is for countries to collaborate on humanitarian assistance, for example during recent disasters like Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. 

Dr Ng said Asia must build more resilient mechanisms to forge consensus and political will, and these mechanisms include multilateral frameworks as well as practical cooperation and interaction between militaries.

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