OPENING REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TONY TAN KENG YAM AT THE DINNER FOR PARTICIPANTS OF THE SHANGRI-LA DIALOGUE IN SINGAPORE AT THE ISTANA ON 4 JUNE 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you to the Istana, some of you the second or third time.
The Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) holds a special place in my heart, because I was the Defence Minister when the first SLD was held in Singapore in 2002. The situation back then was very different from today. There were few platforms for regional countries to come together for multilateral defence engagements and strategic dialogue. The ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and ADMM-Plus had not yet been established. Many of us in the defence sector therefore felt that the Asia-Pacific region needed a platform where defence leaders could meet to share viewpoints and gain a better understanding of one another’s perspectives. There was also a need for platforms to promote greater cooperation to deal with growing transnational threats including terrorism, as the tragic events of 9/11 had demonstrated.
The Government of Singapore worked closely with the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) to start the first SLD. I remember that back in 2002, 12 defence ministers and participants from 22 countries attended the inaugural SLD. The main issues discussed were the US strategy in the Asia-Pacific, China’s rise and military development, and the transnational threat of religious extremism and terrorism. The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who was the Senior Minister then, gave the opening remarks, in which he predicted that “the war against terrorism will be long and arduous”.
Tonight, as we commemorate the 15th anniversary of the SLD, we can see that the first SLD was prescient in focusing our attention on many of the security issues that all countries continue to grapple with. Thanks to the support of the many countries represented here today, the SLD has grown and established itself as the premier defence and security forum in the Asia-Pacific region. This year, 31 Ministers and participants from 35 countries have participated in the dialogue. Over the years, the SLD has also been honoured to hear the perspectives from several foreign Heads of Government. And at the opening yesterday, the Prime Minister of Thailand, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, delivered his keynote address and provided all participants with fresh perspectives to our common security challenges.
I understand that participants have had a rich discussion over the past two days on the key security issues facing our region, including the clear and present threat of terrorism and the need for stronger international cooperation in our common fight against global terrorist networks. I am glad that the SLD continues to provide a neutral platform for countries from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond to exchange views on regional security issues and defence cooperation. I am confident that the SLD will continue to enhance trust and mutual understanding among countries and play a vital role in our regional security architecture.
Singapore is honoured to host the SLD. And I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate IISS for 15 successful years of organising SLD, and commend the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies for the smooth organisation of tonight’s dinner. I would also like to thank all our distinguished guests for your continued support for the SLD. I look forward to future SLDs, which will continue to bring countries together for the common goal of maintaining peace and stability in this region.
I wish you all an enjoyable evening ahead. Thank you.