SINGAPORE — U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has arrived in Asia on the eve of a major regional security summit as Asia-Pacific allies call for the United States to outline its commitment to the region in the face of a myriad security challenges.
Mattis will speak June 3 at the morning plenary sessions at this year’s iteration of the annual IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, which will take place June 2-4.
The plenary sessions at the event will examine the role of the United States in the Asia-Pacific, geopolitical change and defense policy, crisis management in the region, and other topics. There will also be special sessions on nuclear dangers and emerging technology, with regional and global senior defense officials poised to speak at the event.
Tim Huxley, executive director of IISS-Asia in Singapore, said he has been told Mattis will deliver a “concise, punchy” speech. Earlier reports indicated the defense secretary will discuss North Korea, pressing for greater regional cooperation to contain the isolated regime’s nuclear and missile program.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull struck a similar tone in his keynote address at the event, where he expects the Trump administration will “recognize, as its predecessors have, that the United States’ own interests in the Indo-Pacific demand more U.S. engagement, not less,” noting that the “peace and stability of our region has been enabled by consistent U.S. global leadership”.
He also called the United States’ decisions to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Agreement on climate change “disappointing.” But he also urged the audience “not to rush to interpret an intent to engage on different terms as one not to engage at all.”
Another issue that will likely come up at the summit will be the Philippines’ ongoing battle with Islamic State group-linked Maute militants in the southern part of the country, where the Army is struggling to take back the central Mindanao town of Marawi, which was overrun following a failed attempt to arrest the group’s leader in the town in late May.