The Asia-Pacific region faces increasingly complex and potentially unstable international dynamics, according to Singapore’s defence minister.

Addressing the third Asia-Pacific Security Conference (APSEC) being held in Singapore, Teo Chee Hean commented: “Stresses and tensions will inevitably arise as a number of major powers emerge and want their neighbours and the world to reckon with them.”

The region’s geopolitical landscape has “shifted quite significantly” since the first APSEC conference just four years ago, primarily through the rise of Chinese and Indian economic power, he said.

The US remains pre-eminent in terms of military power and political influence. But this pre-eminence is now juxtaposed against China and India’s increasing strength, he said, with the two Asian nations’ booming economies meaning they are increasingly having an impact on the global economy – in securing energy resources, for example.

With their growing economic power and security interest, said Teo, “will come enhanced military capabilities and assertiveness. How they then conduct themselves and engage others will determine the complexion of the security landscape,” in Asia-Pacific.

China is steadily modernising its huge, but obsolescent, air force with Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighters and has an increasingly bluewater-oriented navy, while India plans a major aviation re-equipment programme to replace its large MiG-21 and maritime patrol aircraft fleets.

Making the situation more complex, said Teo, is the re-emergence, after a decade of economic stagnation, of a more confident, outward-looking Japan. “There is a desire to attain the status of what the Japanese term a ‘normal’ country, by which they mean a country that is able to fully project itself on the international stage and, among other things, deploy its military forces in roles beyond the defence of the homeland.”

Additionally, Russia is “not likely to sit aside once it has settled some of its more immediate internal problems and is in a position to exert geostrategic influence.

“Over the next few decades, Asia-Pacific will be the region where the big powers actively jostle for power and influence.”
Nobody wants to see this competition deteriorate into conflict, and work is required to ensure this does not happen, he said.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations can not remain stationary in the face of these developments; to play a useful role it will have to broaden and deepen its integration and adopt a pragmatic, outward-looking orientation, said Teo

Source: Flight Daily News