by Marielena Montesino de Stuart

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is based in London.  The IISS is the world’s leading think-tank for political-military conflict and strategy.  Each year the IISS sponsors the Asia Security Summit, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue– a series of military-to-military meetings held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore.

On the surface this may appear to be a friendly pow-wow– but in reality, it is not.  The tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, with the aggressive Chinese Communist  territorial agenda, including threats to Taiwan and the attempt to control major waterways– has increased tensions between Beijing and Washington.  Indeed, the Chinese suspended meetings with the U.S. military, when President Obama cut a weapons deal with Taiwan. Of course, the United States does not show the same degree of indignation, when China is caught providing military support to Iran and North Korea.

Various delegations that hold bilateral meetings during the Shangri-La Dialogue are also kept busy.  These delegations include many academicians and business analysts who have built careers around the opposing worlds of Communism and Democracy.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie held bilateral talks during the Shangri-La Dialogue. This is the first time the Chinese defense minister has participated in this dialogue.  Even though the meeting was described as “cordial”– Gates and Guanglie discussed various points of friction.

Gates and Guanglie met during the month of January, in Beijing– so this conference is a continuation of their discussions.

Today’s meeting berween Gates and Guanglie was held at the same time that U.S. authorities investigate Google’s allegations that hackers from China stole email passwords of senior U.S. officials. Beijing denies responsibility for these cyber attacks– and claims that they have also been victims of cyber attacks in the past.  China may be gaining a lot of ground militarily and economically– but its communist system is incompatible with transparency– so Beijing’s words are not worth much in the world of diplomacy.  Apparently the cyber attacks were not discussed between U.S. and Chinese military officials, during today’s meeting.

Gates also met with Japan’s defense minister and Malaysia’s prime minister.  A notable U.S. supporter was Singapore’s Defense Minister, Ng Eng  Hen, who expressed his appreciation of the U.S. involvement in addressing regional security threats.

Gates will deliver the opening address for the Shangri-La Dialogue, on Saturday morning.

This is is the last Shangri-La Dialogue that Gates will attend as secretary of defense, since he will soon be replaced by CIA Director, Leon Panetta.

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Marielena Montesino de Stuart

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