SINGAPORE – A major security forum will begin in Singapore Friday, about two weeks ahead of a potential summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump that is also scheduled to take place in the city-state.
North Korean denuclearization is expected to be a primary agenda item at this year’s three-day Asia Security Summit, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, with Pyongyang and Washington still at odds over how to approach that goal.
Defense officials from about 40 countries, including the United States and those in Asia and Europe, may also exchange views on the situation in the South and East China seas, where Beijing has been involved in increasingly tense territorial rows with its neighbors.
The security summit, sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank, has taken place every year in Singapore since 2002.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make a keynote speech on the first day of the meeting.
On Saturday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will make a speech about security in the Indo-Pacific region. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young Moo will speak at a session on North Korea.
The three defense chiefs are expected to hold trilateral talks on the sidelines of the forum to discuss how to deal with the unfolding situation on the Korean Peninsula, sources close to the matter said.
Beijing’s military buildup in the South China Sea has been regularly raised as a major topic at the security gathering, with those who claim part of the waters among the participating countries, including Vietnam, which this year is represented by its defense minister.
But China has decided to send a lower-ranking official, Lt. Gen. He Lei, vice president of China’s Academy of Military Science, a move that may prevent the organizer from deepening discussions on the Asian power’s maritime assertiveness in the region.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is trying to bolster ties with the Asia-Pacific region, said Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller will attend the Shangri-La Dialogue.
It is the first time for NATO, which has primarily focused on the Euro-Atlantic area, to send such a high-ranking official to the annual event.