Shangri-La Dialogue: US urges allies to invest in their own defence

United States Acting Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan urged allies and partners to invest in their sovereign future, as he reiterated America’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, which he said remains its “priority theatre”.

“We are where we belong. We are investing in the region. We are investing in you, and with you. And we need you to invest further in yourselves,” he said in his opening remarks at the 18th Asia Security Summit of the Shangri-La Dialogue yesterday.

Countries in the region need to invest in their own defence to strengthen deterrence and build third-partner capacity to play their part in upholding a rules-based international order and maintaining a level playing field, he added.

These investments should strengthen interoperability and allow for information to be shared with like-minded countries, and ensure country networks are secure and trusted.

“You are buying a long-term relationship, not just a platform,” he said.

Mr Shanahan’s address comes at a time of heightened tensions between the US and China on the trade front, and questions among policymakers and international observers on America’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific.

Reiterating Washington’s commitment to the region, he said America’s defence spending had gone up by 17 per cent in the past two years, and it would increase its investments even further to keep up its engagement.

“No other nation can match the United States’ ability to work across distance, cultures, languages and time – and we are increasing the rate at which we do this,” he told the audience of defence officials, observers and experts.

Citing examples of its engagements with regional countries, Mr Shanahan said Singapore remains a steadfast US partner.

“Singapore is our only major security cooperation partner in the region and provides valuable access to US navy ships and military aircraft, whose presence contributes to security and stability in the region.”