SINGAPORE: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Sunday (Jun 5) called on countries to pursue common security objectives at this year's Shangri-La Dialogue.
Speaking on the last day of the dialogue, Dr Ng spoke about the need to build joint responses, and strengthen intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, amid the increasing threat of terrorism in the region.
Dr Ng also touched on the importance of US and China to ASEAN. At the inaugural Shangri-La Dialogue in 2002 - then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew spoke of two important security challenges that would confront the region for years to come - the US-China relationship and global terrorism.
Fifteen years later, these challenges continue to sit at the forefront of global security. "With US and China as the main protagonists, the South China Sea and territorial disputes therein, willy-nilly, has provided the stage on which this strategic rivalry is being played out,” Dr Ng said.
He added: “ASEAN, with some members as dispute claimants, asserts its centrality – but still, a position attained by default – and has pushed for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. I think all of us are conscious that more is at stake than disputed rocks or islands."
According to Dr Ng, the threat of terrorism has the potential to destabilise the region if not tackled decisively. He also said the threat will grow if terrorist groups become more organised to mount sophisticated large-scale attacks, with deadlier weapons.
"Where appropriate, we can combine resources for operations. The proposed Sulu Sea patrols between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are a welcome initiative to deal with maritime terrorism and smuggling in the region and curtail the movement of extremists.”
Dr Ng added that the region has enjoyed relative peace and progress in the last 15 years, and the dialogue will continue to address the challenges that threaten the region's collective security and beyond.