Tonight Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers the keynote address to the annual Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore. It's ostensibly a think-tank conference organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, but is also something of an unofficial summit gathering for the region's defence ministers and senior officials, and always an important gauge of the regional security temperature.
Some reasons why this year's proceedings will be particularly fascinating and potentially torrid:
- Shinzo Abe will apparently tell the dialogue that Japan can act as a counterweight to a rising China.
- China is sending one of its most talented and outspoken diplomats (and a former Ambassador to Canberra and London), Madame Fu Ying. Last year, the Chinese delegation was for the first time quite vocal from the floor of the conference (a PLA General even asked US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel a question), so if that continues, we could see some interesting interactions.
- President Obama has set the scene with a foreign policy speech (expertly dissected by Tom Switzer and Rory Medcalf) that was noticeably light on references to the Asia Pacific pivot. Will Chuck Hagel fill in the blanks with his speech?
- The US cyber-spying indictments and China's movement of an oil rig into disputed waters off the coast of Vietnam add yet more frisson.
I'll be in Singapore to observe events, so please look out for posts over the weekend.