Hagel to attend Shangri-La Dialogue

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will fly to Singapore next month to attend a key conference of Asia-Pacific defense ministers.

Hagel told Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loon, during a working lunch at the Pentagon on Monday, that he will attend the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, which is held May 31 to June 2. The conference is named after the hotel in which it is held and hosted by London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

This year, Singapore becomes an even more important strategic hub for U.S. naval interests in the region as the U.S.S. Freedom, the nation’s first littoral combat ship (LCS), arrives later this month for its first-ever forward deployment. Four LCS ships will rotate deployments there, putting the fast-moving, shallow-water vessels into the South China Sea for the first time.

“The meeting was an opportunity for Secretary Hagel to hear the prime minister's views on regional security issues, including how nations can work with one another to peacefully resolve territorial issues in the East and South China Seas,” said Pentagon press secretary George Little, in a statement. The men talked about “Afghanistan, counter-piracy and counter-proliferation efforts.”

The draft agenda for this year’s Shangri-La should come as no surprise to Asian security watchers. Topics include speeches and sessions on: “The U.S. Approach to Regional Security,” “Military Modernization and Strategic Transparency,” “Avoiding Incidents at Sea,” “Defense Diplomacy and Conflict Prevention,” “The Cyber Dimension to Asian Security,” and, of course, China.

U.S. defense secretaries Leon Panetta and Robert Gates attended the important annual gathering in previous years, delivering their own strong pledges to build alliances, remain forward deployed in the region and keep open the waters of the South China Sea. The event is the closest thing the region has to mirror NATO's defense ministerial meetings, bringing together nations to foster a regional collective defense.

DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett