Regional unrest stirred up by North Korean nuclear tests took centre stage at the opening of the annual Asia-Pacific security summit, dubbed the Shangri-La Dialogue.
Defense ministers and policymakers from 27 countries gathered in Singapore Friday for the largest summit on Asian defense and security issues.
Delivering the keynote address, Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd called for harsh sanctions against North Korea for conducting nuclear tests, saying the reclusive nation will only respond to a unified show of strength by the world.
Describing the Dialogue as “the pre-eminent defense and security gathering in the Asia Pacific,” Rudd called for the creation of Asia Pacific community, a single forum to engage the leaders of the key nations of the region.
He said from his past experience with North Korea, he believes “strength and resolve is what is necessary to command attention and respect from that regime.They need to be re-embraced and hardened.”
Anticipating a UN Security Council sanction over its nuclear test, North Korea on Friday warned the global body of “further self-defense measures” in case a tough punitive response is imposed on the Communist regime.
Rudd said what began as a financial crisis is becoming a social and political crisis in some countries, and prospectively fuelling a new range of security crises yet to fully unfold.
Ignoring international concern and protests over its underground nuclear test earlier this week, North Korea reportedly fired six short-range missiles off an east coast base later.
UN Security Council, which unanimously condemned the powerful nuclear test, is mulling “tough measures,” including further sanctions, in response to the North Korean act.
Organised by the non-governmental London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, the security summit is aimed at shaping the inter-governmental debate between the states of the Asia-Pacific and the major outside powers on the key security issues facing the region.
America’s security role in the Asia-Pacific, the strengthening of defense diplomacy in the region and defense cooperation will also be discussed in the plenary sessions of the summit.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech Saturday on the role of the US military in the Asia-Pacific region.
He will also meet with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea in a three-way discussion about the tensions caused by North Korean nuclear test.
Before leaving for Singapore, Gates said he planned to use the summit to reassure Washington’s allies of President Barack Obama’s commitment to their defense against North Korea.
Additionally, South Korean and US troops stationed at the North Korean border have been put on high alert in the wake of Pyongyang’s threat of a military attack and abandoning of a truce with South.
In all, 28,500 American troops are supporting the 670,000 South Korean soldiers along the borders with North.
Taking into account the North Korean military’s statement that “The Korean Peninsula is bound to immediately return to a state of war,” South Korean Defense ministry said its reconnaissance and intelligence missions on the North will be stepped up “with more aircraft and personnel.”
Delegates from Australia, Bangladesh, Britain, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam attend the three-day conference.