Download PDF

Shangri-La Dialogue 2017 Special Session Two
Chair: Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia
Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of the Defence Force, Australia
U Thaung Tun, National Security Advisor, Union Government of Myanmar
General Denis Mercier, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, NATO
Lieutenant General He Lei, Vice President, Academy of Military Science, People’s Liberation Army, China

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia

Good afternoon, everyone. I would like to welcome you all to the second simultaneous session of this Shangri‑La Dialogue. The theme for this Special Session is New Patterns of Security Cooperation and I am delighted to introduce our distinguished panel comprising Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of Defence Force, Australia; U Thaung Tun, National Security Advisor, from Myanmar; Lieutenant‑General He Lei, Vice President, Academy of Military Sciences, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA); and General Denis Mercier, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, NATO. I will give a couple of minutes of opening comments and then we will go into the remarks by each of the panellists.

The term ‘security cooperation’ has a broad range of meanings. It can refer to the type of close defence cooperation that treaty allies routinely put into practice, as is the case with NATO, or between the United States and its Asia‑Pacific allies, such as Australia, Japan and the Republic of Korea. The term also subsumes, at the other end of the spectrum, a different type of security collaboration, the more tentative collaboration on activities, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), between countries whose security outlooks and priorities do not necessarily closely coincide. It would be true to say that is the case with the security cooperation that occurs under the auspices of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM‑Plus), and this is sometimes a form of confidence building. In between those two ends of the spectrum, there is cooperation between tentative security partners on functional areas of national concern, as between, for example, India and the US on maritime security, and also between various combinations of countries on counter-terrorism.

Moreover, I think it is clear that security cooperation at all levels of intensity is proliferating and intensifying in this great region. The intent of this Special Session is to map out the ways in which this is happening and to try to discern trends in security cooperation in the Asia‑Pacific region. Some of the questions might be: where is this intensifying cooperation leading? Is it towards greater confidence between countries in the region and greater capacity to cooperate against potential security challenges? Or is it leading towards new alliances and a hardening of divisions within the region? Or is it possible for both trends to coexist on an indefinite basis? Another important question concerns the demands that this broadening and intensification of security cooperation with diverse partners is imposing on armed forces. Is there a limit to how much cooperation is feasible?

Our panellists in this session are all extraordinarily well suited to give their views on this topic. I will ask them to speak on these questions from their national or, in one case, institutional perspective. I will ask them to speak in the order which is listed in the speaker agenda. So, firstly, Air Chief Marshal Binskin, could you please give us your views on new patterns of security cooperation? Thank you very much.

Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of the Defence Force, Australia

Thank you very much, and thanks for the opportunity to be here with you this afternoon. You have outlined some good topics for discussion after we have discussed all this, and so what I would like to do is lead in with that discussion.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to deliver a few remarks regarding the new patterns of security cooperation, in particular from an Australian perspective. As many of you saw last night with our Prime Minister, he said that there are tremendous opportunities for greater prosperity and economic development across our dynamic Indo‑Pacific region. But he did also caution that we face a broad range of shared security challenges, from continued territorial disputes to international terrorism, cyber threats and environmental threats. While these threats are real, we do also have some good news stories to tell over the last few years and leading into the future.

For example, every one of the hundreds of international engagement activities that we all conduct each year improves cooperation between our regional militaries. That might be an area for discussion, about how much we have the capacity to continue to do there, in growth. Importantly, though, these international activities that the militaries do strengthen critical people‑to‑people links; they do help improve trust and transparency; and they do reduce the risk for misunderstandings that may, ultimately, lead to miscalculation or, worse, conflict.

The ASEAN‑centric security-cooperation framework, including the East Asian Summit (EAS), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and ADMM-Plus, is a standout and a positive norm in the region. These forums promote rules‑based order of global norms and encourage joint approaches to shared security challenges. The ADMM-Plus remains Australia’s clear priority for defence engagement with regional frameworks. The practical cooperation it fosters is not sporadic nor intermittent or ad hoc, but regular, substantive and institutionalised. With all that is going on in the region, we should pause to reflect on what a great achievement that is.

In May 2016, Australia was pleased to work with Singapore, Brunei and New Zealand to jointly deliver a major combined maritime-security and counter‑terrorism exercise under the ADMM-Plus. Australia will continue to strongly support ADMM-Plus, including as a co‑chair of the Experts’ Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations (EWG on PKO), which we are pleased to be doing with Indonesia out until 2020. Australia also supports the steps taken by ASEAN to convene ADMM-Plus ministerial meetings annually.

Noting the geographic make-up of the region, maritime-security cooperation is, rightly, at the forefront of regional cooperation. The future prosperity of our region is underpinned by an enduring freedom of movement on the high seas and marine-resource protection. In this light, maritime-security cooperation remains a cornerstone of Australia’s defence engagement across the South Pacific. Our Pacific Maritime Security Program (PMSP) helps Pacific Island countries to respond to humanitarian-assistance and disaster-relief contingencies, and combat illegal fishing and transnational crime.

In a demonstrated commitment to this programme, Australia will provide 21 replacement patrol boats to 12 Pacific Island countries from 2018 and seeks to foster greater regional coordination amongst those nations. Across the region, our nations are increasingly coming together to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, or to exercise our combined capabilities for such an event. The issue here is you do not have to be a large nation with a large number of assets to help out in HADR. An example of that are small nations like Tonga and Samoa, which came to Fiji’s aid last year and to Vanuatu’s aid the year before, after very large and devastating cyclones went through. There is no doubt that we are stronger when we work together, whether following natural disasters, such as cyclones and earthquakes, or other man-made events.

Finally, the region continues to work together to counter the threat of terrorism. This effort is largely, and appropriately, led by civilian enforcement agencies around the region. However, militaries also have a role to play. In fact, the established military people‑to‑people networks and other communication networks do prove to be beneficial when we come to information sharing that helps nations be able to combat terrorism. We must continue to work together to combat international terrorism and the threat of foreign terrorist fighters returning to our region, or foreign terrorist fighters coming to the region for the first time. In fact, terrorism is a global issue, not a regional one, and we need to approach it that way. That is why Australia has joined the international coalition fighting Daesh (or ISIL) and, indeed, there were 65 nations combating ISIL at the last count. In this global fight against terrorism we work very closely with the US, whose role in establishing the international coalition is an example of global leadership and what it can provide.

In conclusion, we, the region, have made significant progress in fostering security cooperation, but we cannot be complacent. In fact, there are visible pressures today across the region that do need addressing. Combating threats and challenges together is in our mutual interest for the future. We do share a fundamental interest in the region’s stability and prosperity, and are more effective when we work together in addressing the threats to these. Cooperation is only becoming more and more important as the world grows more connected, technologically, socially, financially and environmentally.

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to address you all today, and I look forward to being able to further discuss these important issues when we get to the more broader discussion in the plenary. Thank you.

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia

Thank you very much, Air Chief Marshal Binskin. You talked about a great range of security cooperation in which Australia is involved and, in a way, that illustrated the point I was making about the demands that that must make on armed forces. Perhaps that is a point we can return to later.

U Thaung Tun.

U Thaung Tun, National Security Advisor, Union Government of Myanmar

Thank you. Let me begin by expressing my deep appreciation to IISS for this opportunity to contribute to our discussions on new patterns of security cooperation. Earlier I had prepared a written statement, but I will just give you some food for thought so that we can have an interactive discussion.

We all agree that we live in a world of change and transformation, and this includes changes in the security environment. The security environment that we see today is an unprecedented one, as noted by the keynote speaker last night. The international security situation is arguably today more uncertain than at any time since the end of the Second World War. There are several reasons for this, in my view.

Firstly, there appears to be a cultural backlash against globalisation, and you can see this in Europe, you can see it in the US. We have seen a rejection of the status quo in many of these countries in Europe. The rise of the populist movement has threatened the international order as we know it.

Secondly, the willingness of the US to take the lead, as it has done in the past, to ensure security in the Asia‑Pacific is increasingly being questioned. The US appears to be pursuing a more unilateralist and nationalist approach. President Trump has made it clear that his administration will pursue the America First policy. The US today is sending mixed signals and this has an effect on the security architecture here in the Far East and the Pacific. You will know, for example, that President Trump has stated, and I quote, ‘The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defence and, if not, the US must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.’ What does this mean for countries in this region? On the other hand, the US defence secretary says, ‘History is clear: nations with strong allies thrive, and those without them wither.’ Strengthening our alliances requires living up to our treaty obligations. Recently, we have not had the kind of assurances that we need from the big power in our region that was giving us assurances for our security.

Thirdly – and this is a little bit different and more important – the ascendancy of technology and the phenomenal rise of the use of social media creates a new challenge. Today, billions of people now have devices in their pocket that they use to instantly connect with others around the globe. Even in countries like my own, Myanmar, where telephones were hard to come by only a couple of years ago, we now have almost 100% coverage, and most of the time people are on the internet or Facebook. This presents us with both challenges and opportunities. Today, those disseminating disinformation are having a field day. They can create fake news, leak it and spread it without much difficulty. We, in Myanmar, have been a victim of the spread of fake news. Last month, the cyber attack that happened in over 150 countries confirmed that the world is still trying to overcome new threats posed by cyber crime. Nations must not only crack down on cyber criminals, but also ensure that they have no opportunity to disrupt peace and stability.

In these circumstances, the world needs to adapt to the changing security environment, particularly in our part of the world. We cannot rely on great powers alone to ensure international security, as they did in the past. We need to create new patterns that involve nations, big and small, taking responsibility for their own security. As we heard the keynote speaker say, we have to make it possible for the big fish, the small fish, the prawns and the shrimps to be able to live together in peace and stability. What we need to do at this juncture is to see if existing forums like ASEAN or the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), the EAS and the Plus One, Plus Threes that we have today are adequate to meet the challenges of the future. As it stands, ASEAN has been useful in ensuring that we have peace and stability in our region and, for the first time in many decades, there has been no ASEAN member hostilities, so this is a big plus. But where do we go from here?

It is fascinating to look at the situation. Thirty years ago there were hardly any forums devoted to security cooperation. There was little multilateral cooperation in the security field. However, today we are seeing over 200 venues for facilitating Track One and Track Two dialogue. We can discern new patterns of security cooperation, particularly in non‑traditional security sectors such as counter‑terrorism, piracy, response to natural disasters and even pandemics. We can see a clear paradigm shift from military security to non‑military security, but what we need is a combination of military and non‑military security for the protection of our environment. The cooperation in the non‑traditional security sector should be embraced not only by the big powers but all countries, big or small. In short, our security cooperation should be inclusive.

If we are to succeed in moving from confidence‑building measures to the preventive diplomacy that we hope to do, we should ensure that international security cooperation includes all stakeholders – the big fish, the small fish and the shrimps. Our world today faces various non‑traditional security challenges. While we see growing cooperation in the multilateral field, we need to assess to what extent smaller countries are able to keep abreast with the international security community. Unless these smaller countries have adequate capabilities, our security cooperation will not be effective.

To conclude, I would like to suggest that we have a more coordinated approach to multilateral security and we need to face the common challenges together. With that, I will end this introduction and I will be happy to take questions later.

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia

Thank you very much. In your comments, you talked particularly about the range of challenges that has emerged, and the breadth of security cooperation that that has generated and the need for it to be inclusive. Maybe later in the discussion you could tell us something more about how your country is collaborating in various ways on security with partners; that would also be interesting. Thank you very much.

Now, General Mercier, please. Thank you.

General Denis Mercier, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, NATO

It is my turn to thank the International Institute for Strategic Studies for giving me the opportunity to address some brief opening remarks to this second Special Session on New Patterns of Security Cooperation.

Let me start with a short presentation on the trends of the global security environment, an environment that has no geographic boundaries and develops an unprecedented range of challenges at a rapid rate of change. Among other strategic trends, hybrid and cyber threats, state and non‑state actors, impacting the security environment just below the threshold of conflict, coupled with transnational challenges such as organised crime, climate change or economic instability, further deepen the uncertainty and complexity of our security environment. Consequently, crises become more and more interrelated and the same actors may interact differently according to the situation, which makes situational understanding more complex.

In this complex global security environment, no nation or organisation can manage a crisis on its own. This leads to the question raised in this panel: what are the new patterns of security cooperation? Let me assume that we have a common objective for security whatever the threat: detect, identify and understand the early signs of a crisis, avoid escalation and de‑escalate potential developments, and, if this is not possible, be ready to fight and win.

Due to the global nature of threats, detection and identification of crises are not limited to a specific geographical area. The complexity of the security environment requires the creation of an ecosystem made up of a wide network of partners, including nations, international organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the private sector or academia, to name just a few, to share information, provide early warning and shared awareness and make maximum use of existing expertise. Here, I am not mentioning intelligence, which requires specific arrangements due to classification policies, but trends, publicly available and non‑classified information. We need to clear the mechanisms to do it persistently.

In addition, de‑escalation of a crisis requires rapid and coordinated decision‑making. NATO is developing exercises through realistic scenarios to provide political and military leaders with the understanding of the challenges they may face when a crisis develops. Ongoing exercises already associate some partner nations and the EU. The global nature of threats may lead us to consider scenarios that would engage a wider range of partners out of the Euro‑Atlantic area, explore innovative decision‑making architectures to face future transnational challenges and help define the required needs to empower all parties who could play a role in global security.

Finally, we need to be prepared to act together, when necessary, in crises combining multiple domains, including new areas we are fighting, such as cyberspace or information operations. Inter-operability is essential, as was demonstrated in Afghanistan when NATO and non‑NATO forces from various continents deployed together, but could not initially connect their systems. Responsiveness requires the development of standards and norms to enable command-and-control systems to be connected from day one. NATO is developing the Federated Mission Networking (FMN), a standard of inter-operability that already associates many partners from different continents and other international organisations. It is implemented by progressively adapting new requirements and integrating members. Let me stress that this norm does not question the sovereignty of the systems it connects, but builds the bridges between them to allow a seamless federation of various actors.

To conclude, Konrad Adenauer once said that we all share the same sky but not the same horizon. We all share the same objective: the preservation of peace and security. We also all share the same world and the same complexity of the twenty‑first century. To adapt to the same environment, the most successful companies have built large ecosystems. Within these ecosystems, respect of all parties and exchange of data to flexible and adaptable architectures has become critical to deal with complex environments and develop new business models. The same principles apply to security. To answer the panel’s question, improved cooperation built on the wide‑ranging ecosystem of global partners, persistent exchange of open-source information, respectful, flexible and adaptable relationships among parties, and the development of inter-operability standards that enable large exchanges of data form the basis of the new security-cooperation patterns in the twenty‑first century.

Thank you.

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia

Thank you very much, General Mercier. You emphasised the idea of cooperation with partners from different continents, the exchange of open-source information, as you put it, an ecosystem of global partners. Thank you very much for those helpful comments. We will come back to some of the points you raised; I am sure there will be some questions. Thank you.

Now I would like to see if we can hear from the leader of the PLA delegation, Lieutenant‑General He Lei. Thank you very much.

Lieutenant‑General He Lei, Vice President, Academy Of Military Science, People’s Liberation Army, China

Yes, I am very happy to be here today. Firstly, the Asia-Pacific security situation at present is generally stable and positive. The region is a relatively stable part of the globe now. Regional hotspot issues and disputes are basically under control. Promoting peace, stability and seeking development are the strategic goals and common aspirations of most countries in the region.

At the same time, regional security issues are becoming complex and diverse. Multiple, transnational and interconnected security issues tend to break out abruptly. Traditional hotspot issues flare up from time to time, while non-traditional security challenges appear one after another. All the above pose grave threats to regional stability and prosperity.

These Asia-Pacific security challenges are the reflection of three deep-seated problems which have been disrupting regional security for a long time. Firstly, lingering Cold War legacies: the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula keeps fermenting and remains complicated and unresolved. Individual countries maintain their security through exclusive military alliances, base their own security on other countries’ insecurity, and do not hesitate to stir up conflicts and provoke trouble.

Secondly, a lack of strategic mutual trust: necessary actions taken by one country to safeguard its own security lead to overreactions and even vicious interpretations by other countries.

Thirdly, a lack of regional security mechanisms: there are several mechanisms for security cooperation which have played a certain role in maintaining regional security. However, it lacks mutual coordination among these mechanisms. Hence, there is tough work ahead and a long way to go for us to achieve a unified and highly efficient Asia-Pacific security framework.

In recent years, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed building a community of shared future for all mankind and advocated an Asian security concept featuring common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security. These ideas have provided brand-new thoughts on breaking out of the security dilemma in international relations, creating a new pattern for Asia-Pacific security cooperation and maintaining lasting peace in the Asia-Pacific region.

Common security means respecting and ensuring the security of each and every country. We cannot just have the security of some countries, while leaving the rest insecure. All countries have both the rights to participate in regional security issues on an equal footing, and the responsibilities to maintain regional security.

Comprehensive security means adopting a holistic approach to upholding the security of all fields. We should safeguard security in both traditional and non-traditional fields; not only consider the comprehensiveness in the security fields, but also take comprehensive security measures; and not only make efforts to resolve current security issues, but also emphasise on responding to various potential security threats.

Cooperative security means promoting the security of all countries through dialogue and consultation. We should strengthen dialogue and communication, increase strategic mutual trust and reduce mutual misgivings. We should persist in settling disputes in a peaceful manner, opposed to the wilful use or the threat of force. We should pursue peace through cooperation and promote security through cooperation.

Sustainable security means establishing the concept of focusing on both development and security to realise a sustainable security. We should endeavour to foster sound interactions and mutual supplementation of regional economic cooperation and security cooperation in order to promote sustainable security through sustainable development, and guarantee sustainable development through sustainable security.

The third area that I want to talk about is practical measures taken by China to enhance Asia-Pacific security cooperation. China pursues a foreign policy of peace, proposes and takes the lead in practicing the Asian security concept, and has always worked to maintain, build and contribute to international and regional peace.

Although China is faced with multiple security challenges, it firmly follows a path of peaceful development. Although the Chinese armed forces keep going up, China is committed to resolving international disputes through peaceful negotiations and is opposed to resorting to force or the threat of force. In the process of settling disputes through negotiations, China has always held that countries, big or small, are equal, and issues should be settled equitably through consultation on the basis of equality.

China has strived to develop and improve friendly and cooperative relations with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. China–US relations are forging ahead positively and steadily. China–Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination is also progressing very nicely on a high level. China–India strategic and cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity continues to deepen. In the spirit of regarding history as a mirror and looking forward into the future, China is devoted to the continuous improvement and the progress of China–Japan relations.

China has actively advocated new thoughts on settling complex hotspot issues in the region. On the South China Sea issue, China puts forward and supports a dual-track approach, namely peacefully resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation by countries directly concerned and jointly upholding peace and stability in this region by China and ASEAN countries. On May 18, which was not too long ago, China and the ten ASEAN member states adopted the Code of Conduct (CoC) framework, laying a solid foundation for the final agreement on a full Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

On the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, China has proposed a suspension-for-suspension initiative, namely the suspension of DPRK’s nuclear and missile test and the suspension of large-scale joint military exercises of the US and South Korea, as well as a dual-track mechanism, which is intended to advance and achieve the two tracks of denuclearisation as well as building a peace mechanism in the Korean Peninsula.

Aiming at fostering a favourable environment for Asia-Pacific peaceful development, China has put forward the One Belt, One Road initiative. Through policy connectivity, infrastructure connectivity, trade connectivity, financial connectivity and people-to-people connectivity, it aims to complement the development strategies of the countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Twenty-First-Century Maritime Silk Road, and promote common development. Highly praised, positively responded to and actively attended by relevant countries and international organisations such as the UN, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was successfully held in Beijing not long ago and gained fruitful results.

Chinese armed forces have committed themselves to doing their utmost to shoulder more international responsibilities and obligations, and provide more public-security goods. They have intensified their participation in UN peacekeeping operations, deepened international security cooperation in overseas escort missions, and displayed their humanitarian spirit and strong professional quality in international disaster-relief operations.

The Asia-Pacific region is bound together, for good or ill. Building a community of shared future for all mankind is not a future tense, but a present tense. Chinese President Xi Jinping points out, ‘Never have we seen such close interdependence among countries as today, such fervent desire of people for a better life, and never have we had so many means to prevail over difficulties.’ So, we have never had so many means to prevail over difficulties.

China’s proposal and practice of the Asian security concept conforms to the developmental trends of the times and has a global significance. It opens a future for Asia-Pacific security cooperation. Let us join hands, work together and blaze a new trail of Asia-Pacific security, featuring joint construction, all sharing and mutual benefits. Thank you.

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia

Thank you very much, General. You gave a comprehensive but also very concise look at the Asian security concept which has been proposed by your leadership, and we thank you for that. There are elements of that that will be provoke some questions and discussion, but it is an interesting idea and thank you very much.

Dr Dino Patti Djalal, Founder, Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia

I have two short questions. The first one is, I recognise there was a lot of reference to the question of architecture for the region, but I notice there is really a poverty of ideas about where we should take the architecture and how we should upgrade, simplify or improve it. Therefore, I would like to ask if any of the panel would like to share any new ideas with regard to how to improve the architecture which they particularly like or would endorse.

Secondly, General He mentioned about the recent ASEAN meeting which came up with the framework for the ASEAN–China CoC, noting that it is a positive thing. I agree it is a positive thing, but there are those who say that it is still not a CoC, it is just a framework, and it took too long to reach that framework. I wonder if General He would agree that this a bit behind schedule or if it is on schedule. Thank you.

Masafumi Ishii, Ambassador of Japan to Indonesia

My name is Ishii. I am Ambassador of Japan to Jakarta. Two quick questions to General He. Firstly, on the CoC framework, we really appreciate and highly value the agreement reached with ASEAN countries, but just to follow up Ambassador Dino’s question, what is the next step? How long will it take to come up with the CoC?

Secondly, how do you apply the framework you described to the present and clear dangers, such as North Korea? On an equal footing, you described many principles which we all agree with, but how do you apply that to the real crisis and solve it? Thank you.

Dr Sylvia Yazid, Head, International Relations, Parahyangan Catholic University

I would like to echo what Ambassador Patti Djalal mentioned regarding multilateral cooperation. States have been uttering about multilateral cooperation, but we see that, in reality, more subregionals, more bilaterals are coming up. From the practitioner’s point of view, we have been questioning it from the academic side. Is multilateral really the choice for now? With the unpredictability of what is happening in the region, how optimistic can we be with multilateral? Thank you.

Dr Termsak Chalermpalanupap, Fellow, ASEAN Studies Centre, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies

General He’s presentation is most exciting, but I would like to point out that the Asian security concept is not new; the Japanese came up with the same idea 80 years ago. Without the Americans, you and I might be speaking Japanese right now. My question is, are you implying that the existing intentional rules‑based order under US leadership is unsatisfactory and must be improved or changed with your new Asian security concept?

Professor Christopher Roberts, Director, National Asian Security Studies Program, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy

My question follows on in some ways from Ambassador Dino Djalal and also the comments of a couple of the panellists, including the benefits of cooperation, whether globally or regionally. John Blaxland has talked about the idea of a new maritime initiative called MANIS, which would comprise Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Singapore. It happens to mean ‘sweet’ in Bahasa Indonesia, but this configuration overlaps too much with the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA). However, I was wondering what some of the panellists’ thoughts were concerning a new institutional configuration whose members might comprise what I call ‘regional stabiliser states’. These are states that support a stable regional order, a rules‑based order and the rule of law. I can think of a number of ASEAN countries – it might include Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, but also other countries in the broader Indo‑Pacific, such as Australia, Japan, Korea, etc. Given the stalemate within ASEAN, the likely limited benefits of a code of conduct this late down the path, is it not a case of having to go beyond the current institutions and look at something new? Thank you.

Professor Syed Munir Khasru, Chairman, Institute for Policy, Advocacy, and Governance, Bangladesh

When we talk about new patterns of security cooperation, fundamentally we also need to ask what are the new patterns of threats we are facing today. One key thing that is missing in all these elements is the role of non‑state actors. In the last two days I have heard in all the sessions the mention of Daesh, IS, people coming back from the field, how the security apparatus is going to deal with them. What is very important to realise is, in this process, faith leaders and technology giants like Google and Facebook have an important role to play. One of the challenges that some of the people on the panel face in the coming days is how to devise a framework to bring these non‑state actors to play a role. When we talk about the lone-wolf syndrome, something we faced last year in Dhaka, it is well-educated, well-to-do families, people being radicalised through online, which is not possible for any security apparatus to tackle. Therefore, when we deal with a new pattern of threats we need to think out of the box, we need to reinvent the wheel, we need to find new frameworks; the same line of wisdom may not be equally effective. That is one of the core challenges of new security cooperation. Thank you.

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia

One issue which has emerged quite strongly is the existing institutional framework, the architecture as some people call it – is that adequate or are new institutions needed? Does the architecture need to be adapted? For what it is worth, my feeling on this is, let’s try to make the existing institutions work better rather than add new ones which might also disappoint us, because that would dissipate the energy over an even wider range of activities. In other words, countries would be spreading themselves increasingly thin. It would be great to have the views from the panel on this and maybe in the reverse order to which they spoke just now, so perhaps we could go back to General He Lei first.

Lieutenant-General He Lei, Vice President, Academy Of Military Science, People’s Liberation Army, China

When I was making the speech earlier, I thought that the mic would automatically turn on by itself, so perhaps the first few lines were not on. I am sorry about that.

After I finished my speech just now a colleague, an ambassador, raised the question about the South China Sea CoC. I would like to thank you experts for taking an interest in the South China Sea CoC.

First of all, the ambassador mentioned that this CoC of the South China Sea, has it taken too long to put together? I think this really has to do with the complexity of this issue. It has also got to do with the number of countries that are involved in the South China Sea. To try to reach a consensus definitely requires time. Of course, we can say subjectively that we will negotiate today and tomorrow we will sign an agreement. Wouldn’t that be great? But the truth is, the reality is very different from what we may subjectively think.

On 18 May we were able, in China’s Guiyang, to sign the framework for the South China Sea CoC. I already think this is great progress, this is already an accomplishment. Without this step, how can we move forward? Therefore, the ambassador’s hope, well, I fully understand what he wants, because this is very much in line with what we want as well. But we need also to have strategic patience as well as stamina, continue to work hard along these lines and try to achieve an agreement as soon as we can, something that can be reached as a consensus between all parties involved. This is our hope.

Another ambassador mentioned that the South China Sea CoC framework has been signed, so what do we hope to do next? You are very forward-thinking; you are able to look ahead and I have much respect for you. So after we have finished this step, what do we do? I am sure that I can tell you that the Chinese government and the pan-ASEAN countries’ governments have got our own road ahead. We have got our own guideline. I represent the military from China. What our plan is, what our timeline is, where we hope to go, they don’t report to me. The government does not report to me. Therefore, my response to you, if I were to tell you what the next step is going to be, I can only try to interpret it myself, come up with a conclusion myself to try to answer your question.

I think that for the next step there are at least two things that we need to do, because now we’ve already established a framework but we have not signed an actual agreement. So the first thing we need to do is to use this framework to try to reach an agreement, as soon as possible sign a formal CoC, so that the ten countries in ASEAN, all the signatories, can abide by this. Is this going to be the first thing we should do?

The second thing I suppose we should do is, after you’ve signed this agreement, you need to abide by this agreement, because this is not just a sheet of paper. This agreement is one which all parties have to abide by. So based on the various rules and norms established in the agreement, we will settle all the problems one after another. Today, China and the Philippines have already started the dual negotiations regarding these islands and territory disputes. I think this is already a very good start. This relates to the second question of the CoC.

But there was a third question regarding this CoC: can we use this CoC to try to resolve the North Korean Peninsula issue? The South China Sea CoC is primarily targeted at the South China Sea. That’s why this framework was signed. In China, we often say that one key opens only one door; you cannot possibly have one solution to resolve all complicated problems under the sun. If you imagine you can have one solution to resolve all complicated problems in the world, then I think that would be a very idealistic and very simplistic view. If we can use the South China Sea CoC to resolve the South China Sea issue properly, I think that already is quite a big task. I think that we should already, in military terms, present a great medal to this issue, this CoC. If we used the South China Sea CoC and try to resolve the North Korean Peninsula issue, I think that the signatories don’t even hope for that to happen. So this is with regards to the third question regarding the CoC in the South China Sea.

So I would like to thank all of you experts, all of you colleagues that have an interest in the CoC in the South China Sea. Thank you.

General Denis Mercier, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, NATO

I would like to address your question regarding the architectures: do we need to stick to the existing architectures or create new ones? I am probably not best placed to make recommendations for the Asian continent, but I can give you the experience we have in the Euro‑Atlantic area.

In the Euro‑Atlantic area we have already existing huge international organisations and huge frameworks, namely NATO – the organisation I belong to – and the EU. But there are plenty of other organisations we have to deal with, especially when we look at the fight against terrorism. One of the things is looking at the new mission, especially regarding non‑state actors and the fight against terrorism, and are we at, as we say, project stability. We have developed a wide range of partners, and I must say that one of the issues is, the more we will develop new architectures or new organisations, the more we will complexify our structures, so I would not recommend that. In our area we need to make our own organisations more flexible by design and adaptable and this is what we try to do now. That is important, because we have an organisation, NATO, that has been built on the collective-defence mission. But now, looking at the other missions, we try to develop this idea of a more federated approach. When I say ‘federated’, it is not only our nations and our partner nations but, as I mentioned, all the organisations, NGOs, academia, that could help us solve a problem.

A key question is, for instance, Iraq, Libya – the people who have the best understanding of these countries are not in Brussels, they are in the area, with a regional approach. It is important that we recognise that. It is important that we try to look at what the perception is of our organisation. Maybe in Iraq NATO has, for instance, a good perception, but that is definitely not the case in Libya. That does not mean that we cannot do anything. That means that we need to look at what the countries and other organisations are that can be in the lead so that we can have very flexible structures, architectures, in supportive roles. NATO is perceived many times as an organisation that, when it goes somewhere, it wants to lead. But NATO could be in support of other international organisations or even nations and with a very low profile, depending on the situation.

The key issue is not do we need new architectures or new organisations. The key question is how we build very flexible architectures, taking into account the situation, taking into account the geographical area and how we define the supported role of all the different actors, because, as I mentioned, no one organisation, nor one nation, has all the solutions to a potentially emerging crisis. We need to have a combined effort, but with these combined efforts we have to recognise that we need to tailor them according to situations.

To finish, I very much appreciated the comments regarding the other domains and how we need to think out of the box when we look at the threats, especially in the broad domain of information operation and cyber. That leads to having specific federations which are not limited to state actors, but we need to absolutely federate our way forward with the private sector, too. This is what we have started doing in NATO, especially in the cyber domain, where we are partnering with several big, international companies that help us share information and data essential for our strategic awareness. But this is not limited to the cyber domain. The role of the big companies on the internet and the big companies that manage data is something we have to take into account, and we need to find ways to partner with them in order to be sure that, in this absolutely essential information-operation domain, we have the appropriate architectures as well.

Therefore, my plea is that we do not need to create new things. We need to use what exists today, but with a more flexible, adaptable organisation, which is for me essential to the complexity of our century.

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia

Thank you very much, General. I think those comments will be very well received.

U Thaung Tun, National Security Advisor, Union Government of Myanmar

I would like to address the issue of whether there is a need for a new security architecture. Rather than create new security architecture, we might want to make best use of the current security architecture that we have. For example, most of our countries are faced with many threats to security in the Asia‑Pacific, mainly due to the transnational nature of these threats. For example, in the Sulu Sea you have three countries – the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia – faced with the threat of terrorist activities. Only a few months ago, the three of them came together and have come to an agreement that they will have joint cooperation. Rather than all ten ASEAN countries working on this, they decided that the three of them, who are directly involved, do this. So, what we need to do is probably to have subgroups in ASEAN and other multilateral set-ups to look into specific issues. The Sulu example is a very good one, and last year they signed an agreement to have coordinated patrols in the area. This is a good start and I like to cite this as an example.

With regard to cyber security, I mentioned in my introductory remarks that, because of the ascendancy of technology and the phenomenal rise in the use of the internet, we do have a problem not only among citizens but non‑state actors that are misusing the internet. I believe we have international multilateral negotiations on this. Particularly I would say Google, for example, is trying to find ways and means to have some sort of technology to offset this. It is a good start and we will depend more on these companies that are directly involved in this rather than states.

Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of the Defence Force, Australia

Much of it has been said, but I will add a couple of points. Firstly, on the CoC, I agree with the majority of the views here that this is taking time to drag out and is something that we do need. But as we encourage the finalisation, from our view here, this needs to be in accordance with international law. It should not rewrite international law and try to rewrite the norms; it should just bring those together in a way that is understood and can be used in the region.

With regards to the architecture and the framework, whatever term you want to use, I also agree with a couple of colleagues here. When you debate whether the security framework should be cooperative, coordinated, comprehensive, collective – there are a lot of Cs there, I know – the fact is, nations in the region need to want to have the framework, acknowledge the benefits of it and then work towards achieving the best desired outcome that you can from that. We could try to stand up new frameworks, but my view is we have more than enough there at the moment to work with. It would be more beneficial to work on making what we have work and develop on the understandings that we have. If we do not, we do risk nations trying to drive their own view on their own new frameworks. So my preference would be to work on the current ones that are there.

Whether you want to debate whether you want a cooperative, coordinated, comprehensive, collective, one thing I can say – and it has been used all day after the Prime Minister last night, the big fish, little fish and the shrimp – if you do not swim together in a school, you are going to risk the chance of being picked off by the sharks. Thank you.

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia

Thank you very much. I see nine or ten people who would like to ask questions.

Nyantha Maw Lin, Senior Adviser, Vriens and Partners

This is directed to Excellency U Thaung Tun. Could you describe a little bit in detail about what Myanmar is doing with regard to what is happening in Rakhine specifically? It touches on a number of issues that you have already covered in terms of – there is some conflation between serious and real humanitarian issues but, just as equally, security issues in the region. Thank you.

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, Director General, Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka

My question is on strategic mutual trust‑building in South Asia. As you know, we have not had the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for two years and two big fish, India and Pakistan, are having a conflict there and many small fish are getting into trouble, Sri Lanka and many other countries. How do you strengthen in a situation like this, when two nations do not speak, as well as the situation of bringing back the SAARC and getting this in order? Thank you.

Gullnaz Baig, PhD Candidate, London School of Economics

I am going to kill this fish analogy. We have been talking about two patterns of threats interchangeably and we should distinguish between them. There is the traditional and the non‑traditional, and I would like to delve deeper into the non‑traditional threat. In the absence of clear, big power leadership and the laudable desire to include the big fish, small fish and the shrimp, how do we ensure that institutions remain agile in responding to threats that may come from an eel or an octopus, which can move very quickly and work solitarily? The second speaker said that perhaps the way to do this is to have subgroups based on functional cooperation. Then we go in a circle, do we not, because what is the point of having the institution in the first place? Why do we not just go down the route of having functional cooperation from the first instance? Thank you.

Andrew Nien‑Dzu Yang, Secretary General, Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies

A similar question is, in terms of enhancing HADR joint operations to cope with security cooperation in the region, are there any rules‑based criteria for this kind of cooperation? If so, what are those criteria? That is a question to all the panellists. Thank you.

Dr Steven Everts, Senior Official, Asia and Pacific, European External Action Service

A question on the blurring of internal and external security and linking that also to the architecture question that we have been discussing: how confident are people on the panel that we are able, within the existing architecture, to bring these other actors into patterns of cooperation? I observe that a lot of discussions in official channels are still very much government‑led, but everybody recognises that you need to bring in the private sector or others. So how confident are you that we are able to do what we say in ministerial speeches, which is to bring everybody together who has an influence to bear on a given problem, such as cyber security, CT, trafficking and others? Thanks.

Soe Myint Aung, PhD Candidate, University of Oslo; Founder and Chief Strategist,
Tagaung Institute of Political Studies

My question is for National Security Advisor U Thaung Tun. Myanmar is trying to achieve peace with a wide range of ethnic organisations and there is an ongoing peace process in Myanmar. Many countries, big and small, near and far, are interested and want to get involved in Myanmar’s political transformation. The question is, does this international involvement present opportunities for the government of Myanmar to think about new patterns of security cooperation? Or rather does this situation present more challenges for the government?

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia

Thank you very much. We had quite a few questions in that batch that were Myanmar‑focused, so I will turn to Myanmar’s National Security Advisor and ask U Thaung Tun for his response.

U Thaung Tun, National Security Advisor, Union Government of Myanmar

Thank you, sir. I would probably need more than an hour or so to cover these two questions, but I will try to prune, graft and do everything I can to put it in a nutshell.

Firstly, let me begin with the peace talks, because that is a very current thing. In Myanmar last week, we had peace talks. This was the second session that was held during the term of this new government. Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has been at the helm of state for the last 14 months and this is the second time that peace talks have been held. They were held for six days and ended last Monday. It is, first and foremost, a process. It is not a one-time thing; we had these talks last August, so this is the second time. The significant progress achieved this time is that out of those groups that are up in arms, around 20 or so, eight groups that signed the peace accord were at the table. In addition, all other groups attended the conference as observers. This was the first time that we were able to get all the stakeholders at the same table.

There were 45 agenda items; they agreed to 37 of the 45. Some of the remaining items were mainly to do with whether these groups can secede from the union. We have a country of 135 ethnic groups and currently we have 14 states. The discussion was whether we will have a new constitution or whether we will go in a different direction. They agreed that, in future, the country will be a democratic federal system. This, in principle, has been agreed. What this means is that there will be a chance for self‑determination in each of the states. They will have their own governments, they will have their own elected chief ministers, but they will remain as a unitary state under a federal system.

There was no agreement reached on whether the constitution will state that these units will have the possibility to secede from the union. That was an issue because the government and the military establishment would like to have in writing that nobody will secede from the union. So that is still being discussed and probably down the line, in six months, it will be on the table again. The good news is that they have agreed to share resources. They have agreed there will be self‑determination. They have agreed that there will be a federal democracy in Myanmar, much like you have in India or in Germany or even in Canada.

That is what is envisaged, but people have to agree, first, to a ceasefire. Ceasefire will be the first step, and then the political dialogue.

The question asked was whether it would help to have foreign involvement in this. I do not think so, because we already have 135 groups trying to come to an agreement and it is not going to help if we have advisers or others trying to prod one or other of the groups in a different direction. We would rather have it among ourselves to iron out the differences.

With regard to Rakhine, rightly or wrongly, the focus of the international community has been on Rakhine in recent months mainly because there is a lack of understanding of what is happening there. Rakhine is one of our poorest regions. It borders Bangladesh and India, and there we have two minority groups, not a majority and a minority but two minority groups, which have a lack of confidence and trust between them. This has been going on for several decades, but it was accentuated recently because there was an attack on 9 October across the border. We know for certain that they were funded and inspired from the outside; this has been confirmed by intelligence agencies in the neighbourhood.

The government of Myanmar feels that we need to find solutions to the root causes of the situation there, which are poverty, underdevelopment, lack of jobs. That is why you have tensions between these minority groups, which have little to survive with. As a government, we have set up a commission, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi herself, to ensure that the root causes can be addressed. In addition, the government has requested Kofi Annan, the former secretary‑general, to come up with an advisory commission. His report is due in August, but in March he submitted an interim report with 43 recommendations and most of these have promptly been acted upon. For example, it asked for media access; we have provided media access. It calls for unfettered access. Unfettered access is a little bit difficult at this time because on 9 October, when the security headquarters was attacked, the armoury was looted and a lot of arms were lost. Unfettered access, therefore, may be difficult, but we have in the last few months allowed foreign journalists to visit the places and to observe first‑hand what is happening on the ground.

Secondly, they have asked for humanitarian assistance and this has been provided by international organisations, plus our neighbours and friends from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and elsewhere. The Indonesian foreign minister was able to go to the area and hand over a token of the assistance herself. What we have only insisted upon is that the assistance be provided to both communities, because we do not want to have a situation where this will make things worse.

There was an issue with our friends from Malaysia. They wanted to send a flotilla to help the refugees in this area, but we have prevailed upon them to send the assistance to Yangon, as it is the usual port of entry for all this assistance. They agreed and the assistance has now been provided to the Rakhine area.

Rakhine, basically, is an issue of two communities that do not have trust and confidence. It is an issue because there is poverty, underdevelopment and lack of opportunity, so that is being addressed. There is no ethnic cleansing or no religious persecution, because in the rest of Myanmar you can find Muslim communities, Catholic communities, other Christian communities and even some synagogues here and there, so it is not an issue of religion. It is mainly an issue of people who do not have the means to make ends meet and they need help. So what we have asked the international community to do is to join hands with us to find a solution to the problem there.

I will stop there. Thank you.

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia

Thank you very much. It is very useful, in the broader context of this Dialogue, to hear your perspective on that in detail. That is extremely useful, thank you; we appreciate that.

General Denis Mercier, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, NATO

I will be very quick. If I understood the question, it is, if we go with flexible architecture, do we need organisations already? In our organisation, what we build is trust. We cannot institutionalise trust, we build trust. We build trust towards the permanent exchanges that we have and that is absolutely essential. This is the value of NATO, with the permanent representation of nations at the political and military level together, but this is the value of the relationships we are building with a wide range of partners as well. If we want to build an ecosystem in which trust is an assumption, we need to have permanent exchanges of information, or it will not work. And we need to exercise it.

That goes with your question regarding the private sector, and this is a question that we have: can we rely on others, especially in the non‑traditional fields and domains of operations that we see? Can we rely on the private sector and other organisations that are not governmental? Yes, we can do that and we do that already, but we need to exercise it. Once we build this ecosystem, we need to exercise it and we need to fail, and that is a key point: if we exercise it correctly – and we have a tendency in NATO to be successful in all of our exercises – we are wrong. We need to fail, because when we fail, we test, really, the trust and then we will have the assurance that it will work.

Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of the Defence Force, Australia

I promise not to use any more fish analogies. Starting with the strategic mutual trust in South Asia, this is a military officer speaking and this is where I do the football pass, because this is a diplomatic issue, not a military issue. All too often, when we jump at strategies people automatically jump to the military strategy and go, ‘That is not a strategy’, and that is right, because there has to be a whole strategy in this and this is a diplomatic one. Without passing the ball too much, though, my view here is that you have to work with the nations to encourage the open discussion to start off with, and to do that you have to have open channels. All too often those channels are not necessarily direct channels to begin with and so your traditional lines, traditional channels, do not necessarily work. Therefore, you have to work down the non‑traditional lines and it may be it is an indirect path to do it.

In doing that, everyone needs to acknowledge what the underlying issues are and acknowledge what may be the best way to address them. You tend to try to identify the common grounds and the common benefits for both nations, or all the nations, in why they need to work together and what is it for them to be able to do it. One that we do not tackle a lot but you do see around the region, without going to some of the areas where we are seeing the security destabilisation, is there are some nations where it benefits them to have that destabilised environment around them. So you need to tackle the peripherals as well as the main nations.

Looking at the traditional and non‑traditional threats, how do institutions remain agile? They tend not to, and that is the problem, because you find that some nations exploit that slow mechanism and work within the loop. So, to go to my NATO colleague here, I would say to you that agility in institutions will only grow proportionately as trust grows. As trust grows, people trust the fact that you can make quick decisions and quick actions, and everyone trusts that this is going to work and pull together to do it. I cannot see another way. You can set up working groups and do all that, but I am with you, that is normally just a bit of a chance to keep kicking the can down the road, rather than look to where you need to resolve it.

The rules‑based criteria for cooperation was a question. Again, it goes back to the word ‘trust’, which seems to be the major word of the session. It is a trust that the institutions and the organisations you are working with are going to work within international law and norms. If you do that, you have that trust, there is a trust that you will work to the common goals. I don’t know if everyone was present when Minister Inada spoke this morning, but she made a very good point, which may or may not have gone through to the keeper – a sporting analogy. Norms do change over time. They do, you have to accept that. But they should not change through coercive or single-nation actions. They should change because the nations involved in that organisation want them to change and they all agree that they will change over time. Thank you.

Lieutenant-General He Lei, Vice President, Academy Of Military Science, People’s Liberation Army, China

Today, I am going to give my time, this time given to me for my last speech, and I would like to use this time to thank the moderator and let him speak. So this is the last time I will speak, so I will give the speech time to our moderator because our moderator has really moderated this session very well and the time is up; therefore, I will present my speech time to him instead.

Dr Tim Huxley, Executive Director, IISS–Asia

Thank you, General. That is an example of a very positive and cooperative approach and the IISS hugely appreciates that. Thank you very much, sir.

I am afraid it is time to draw this session to a close. We have dealt with a huge topic. I cannot really think of a bigger topic in the context of the Shangri‑La Dialogue. Of course, ultimately the Shangri‑La Dialogue is about promoting regional security cooperation itself. It is important that we continue talking about different vectors and modes of cooperation, and we keep grappling with this topic year after year. We have not come to any easy answers because there are no easy answers to this question. But if there is one theme that has come out of this that strikes me as particularly important, it is the need to make existing institutions, to make the existing architecture work better, although, in some cases, that may involve the need to look for new partners, to look for new ways of cooperating, and that may include devolving to smaller groups of countries, in some instances, within the existing framework.

I would like to thank our four panellists very much indeed for their excellent presentations and their great frankness during this session, which has been truly useful. We really appreciate that. Also, to all of you, particularly those who made points and asked questions in such a constructive way. My apologies to those who would have liked to have intervened but whom I was not able to accommodate. I hope that maybe you will, if you want to, approach the panellists now, or find other ways of communicating with them later. Thank you again very much indeed.

Back to content list

IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2018

The 17th Asia Security Summit will be held in Singapore on 1–3 June 2018.