Tag Archives: United States

Lost Horizon: The Shangri-La Dialogue

Amid a rising China, the big questions coming into this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue surrounded the Trump administration’s intentions in the Asia Pacific.

Published by Fair Observer, June 5, 2017

By Tom Benner

The lobby of the luxurious Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore — with its high ceilings, marble interior, massive columns and crystal chandeliers — pulsed on the evening of June 2 with anticipation and excitement. People were well-dressed, many in military attire, and they strode purposely by the television lights and camera crews jostling for images and b-roll that might capture the scene.

They were gathered for the opening of the Shangri-La Dialogue, which happens every year at this hotel, generally on the first weekend in June. Defense ministers, security types and journalists from around the world pack into the hotel for Asia’s largest annual defense summit.

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding prime minister, started the Shangri-La Dialogue back in 2002, as a way to initiate a regional discussion on peace and security amid the dangers of the day.

The schedule typically follows the same format — participants arrive on late Friday afternoon in time for a gala dinner and a keynote address. Saturday and early Sunday are filled with talks, addresses and panel discussions, with private meetings and media availabilities on the side. By midday Sunday, the dialogue comes to a close. Commentators and journalists rush to meet deadlines, and participants head home until next year. Continue reading …

War of words heats up over South China Sea conflict

At Singapore summit, critics accuse China of setting a confrontational tone and undermining Asia-Pacific security.

Published by Al Jazeera English, May 31, 2015

By Tom Benner

Singapore – While rival claims over the South China Sea fishing grounds and shipping lanes go back centuries, China’s intensifying land reclamation and island-building in the Spratly archipelago and other contested waters is an escalating global dispute.

China laid out its ambitions for a bigger naval presence far from its coasts last week, prompting concerns that Beijing will back up its claims to new territories by flexing its military muscle in one of the world’s most strategic waterways.

Critics from around the world attending Asia’s top defence summit over the weekend accused China of setting a confrontational tone, undermining security in the Asia-Pacific, and hurting diplomatic efforts to resolve competing claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, and other nations surrounding the resource-rich sea. Continue reading …

Singapore rules US death a suicide, but suspicions linger

Singapore has invited the US to audit a firm to ensure the case of Shane Todd didn’t involve secret technology transfer to China.

Published by The Christian Science Monitor, July 8, 2013

By Tom Benner, Contributor, Satish Cheney, Contributor

Singapore authorities on Monday ruled the hanging death of American scientist Shane Todd last year was a suicide. State coroner Chay Yuen Fatt found that there was no foul play and that the 31-year-old Mr. Todd died by asphyxia due to hanging.
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Todd’s family immediately criticized the ruling as predetermined, and vowed to continue a high-profile campaign that has put Singapore’s normally cordial relations with the United States under strain.

Todd was found hanged to death in his Singapore apartment in June 2012, days before he was to leave the country for good and return to the US. His parents in Montana have long rejected the possibility of suicide, instead believing their son died trying to stop a transfer of highly-sensitive military-grade technology from his employer, Singapore’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME), to Huawei Technologies, suspected by some countries of enabling Chinese espionage with their devices. Continue reading …

Aircraft carrier diplomacy


Singapore’s importance in the US “Asia pivot” – or “rebalancing,” as some in foreign policy prefer to call it – is underscored this week by two visits: Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s meetings in Washington with President Obama and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, and the docking of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis at Singapore’s Changi Naval Base.

The cordial meeting between Obama and Lee at the White House marks strong military ties and cooperation between the two nations, with new rotational deployments of US Navy vessels – as many as four littoral combat ships — in Singapore starting later this month, as the US looks to boost its Asia-Pacific presence. Littoral combat ships are surface vessels designed to operate in shallow waters close to shore, according to a US Embassy media release.

Hagel, hosting PM Lee at the Pentagon, discussed issues including tensions in the South China Sea, and accepted an invitation to speak in Singapore at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, which is held May 31 to June 2. Secretary of State John Kerry with visit Northeast Asia next week, amid tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Meanwhile, at Changi Naval Base, visitors over the past few days got to board the USS Stennis, which performs something of a showboat/PR function when it isn’t seeing action (the Stennis launched the final sorties which brought the Iraq War to a close in 2011, and recently completed a five-month tour providing air support to allied troops on the ground in Afghanistan.). As a colleague described it, the carrier is like something out of Top Gun, the size of four football fields, and carries 6,500 crew and airmen at maximum capacity, and 70-plus aircraft. The floating military base leaves Singapore today for Hawaii before heading to its home port in Washington State.

Secretary Kerry and PM Lee make remarks in this newly released video on YouTube.