Highlights from Shangri-la Dialogue 2014. Video credit: IISS.

The 2015 Shangri-La Dialogue kicks off on Friday, May 29, in Singapore and runs through the weekend.   The defense summit will feature a keynote speech by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong and plenary remarks by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Japanese Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani, Indian Defense Minister Rao Singh, and many more. Senator John McCain and Admiral Harry Harris, the newly-anointed commander of Pacific Command, will address the forum in special sessions on Saturday, May 30.  China has selected as its Shangri-La representative Admiral Sun Jianguo, the deputy Chief of the PLA General Staff Department. The full Shangri-La agenda is available here.

This year’s dialogue comes with tensions running high in the South China Sea, and China’s island building is likely to be a prominent topic. Shangri-La has often been a forum in which regional leaders air their concerns on major defense issues: The 2014 dialogue took place while China’s HD-981 oil rig was deployed in the waters around the Paracel Islands. In their Shangri-La remarks, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called out China’s “destabilizing, unilateral activities in the South China Sea,” and Chinese Lt. General Wang Guanzhong dismissed their criticism as “full of words of threat an intimidation.” For the maritime security highlights from Abe, Hagel, and Wang’s speeches watch the video above. Read on for some of the other greatest hits from Shangri-La 2014, and stay tuned as we track major maritime security developments at this year’s forum!

“Crisis and conflicts are unpredictable. But we can reduce that uncertainty by proactively building among us strong relations and multilateral frameworks that build trust and confidence through cooperation and consensus. A stronger and more stable Asia will benefit all our citizens and the world.” 

-Dr. Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Defence, Singapore

“But in recent months, China has undertaken destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea. It has restricted access to Scarborough Reef, put pressure on the long-standing Philippine presence at the Second Thomas Shoal, begun land reclamation activities at multiple locations, and moved an oil rig into disputed waters near the Paracel Islands. The United States has been clear and consistent. We take no position on competing territorial claims. But we firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert those claims. We also oppose any effort – by any nation – to restrict overflight or freedom of navigation – whether from military or civilian vessels, from countries big or small. The United States will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged.”

-Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense, United States

“Now, when we say ‘the rule of law at sea’ – what exactly do we mean in concrete terms? If we take the fundamental spirit that we have infused into international law over the ages and reformulate it into three principles, we find the rule of law at sea is actually a matter of common sense. The first principle is that states shall make their claims based on international law. The second is that states shall not use force or coercion in trying to drive their claims. The third principle is that states shall seek to settle disputes by peaceful means. So to reiterate this, it means making claims that are faithful in light of international law, not resorting to force or coercion, and resolving all disputes through peaceful means.”

-Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan

“China has settled land border demarcation with 12 out of 14 of its neighbors and completed the delimitation of Beibu Gulf with Vietnam. The PLA has set up 64 border meeting stations. Over 2,000 meetings were held between Chinese and neighboring border troops in these stations in 2013. We are actively engaged in maintaining maritime security and stability in the neighboring area. 16 joint patrols of Beibu Gulf have been carried out by China and Vietnam. In 2002, China and ASEAN countries signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and jointly set forth the principle that all disputes over territory and jurisdiction should be resolved peacefully through friendly consultation and negotiations between sovereign states directly involved in the disputes. The PLA actively supports the implementation of the DOC and pushes forward the consultation on the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, with a view to maintaining security and stability in the South China Sea. While firmly safeguarding its sovereignty and legitimate interests, China has demonstrated utmost sincerity and patience in its commitment to settling disputes peacefully through consultations and negotiations with parties involved. China has never threatened to use force, and has never taken provocative actions. We will never accept provocation by others under the pretext of “Proactive Contribution to Peace” that stirs up tension for their selfish interests.” 

-Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, Deputy Chief, General Staff Department, People’s Liberation Army, China

“Australia does not take a position on competing claims in the South China Sea but we have a legitimate interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded trade, and freedom of navigation. The use of force or coercion to unilaterally alter the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea is simply not acceptable. We urge all parties to exercise restraint, restrain from actions that could increase tensions, to clarify and pursue claims in accordance with international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.” 

-Senator David Johnson, Minister for Defence, Australia

Stay tuned for more coverage of the 2015 Shangri-La dialogue next week. Follow us on Twitter at @MiraRappHooper and @AsiaMTI this weekend for updates from the forum.

About AMTI Leadership

Dr. Michael Green is senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Executive Advisor to AMTI. Gregory B. Poling is a senior fellow for Southeast Asia and director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at CSIS.