“If there hadn’t been international law and big fish ate little fish and little fish ate shrimp…we wouldn’t have existed,” Zelensky said, quoting the words of Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore.
Zelensky went on to hint at the wider implications of the Russian invasion. Ukrainian officials have argued vehemently that if the international community had taken greater steps to punish and prevent Moscow’s military adventurism – through tougher sanctions and increased military aid to Ukraine – Russian President Vladimir Putin would have may have been dissuaded from launching his war of conquest.
“Today’s example of Ukraine is the example for the whole world,” Zelensky said. “The world must always support any action related to preventive measures to prevent violence.”
Post global opinion columnist Josh Rogin was in the room in Singapore as Zelensky spoke and probed the subtext of the Ukrainian leader’s remarks in a follow-up question, asking what advice he had for Taiwan, which is facing a similar threat of coercion. and invading China as Ukraine has done from Russia for many years.
“No one takes advantage of [war], apart from some politicians who are not satisfied with the current level of their ambitions. Therefore, they continue to develop their appetites, their ambitions,” Zelensky said, although he did not mention Chinese President Xi Jinping by name. “The world is allowing these leaders to build their appetites for now, so we need a diplomatic resolve to support countries that need help.”
🇺🇦 President Zelensky delivers a moving speech to #SLD22 emphasizing the links between events in Europe and Asia: “I am grateful for your support for Ukraine. But it’s not just for Ukraine. It is also up to you to ensure that our world and yours are safe.@IISS_org pic.twitter.com/5tkaDMY4xi
— Lynn Kuok (@LynnKuok) June 11, 2022
Biden turns to Asia as war in Ukraine rages
The spirit of Zelensky’s speech was visible the day before. “The Ukraine of today may be East Asia tomorrow”, said Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the forum’s opening speech on Friday. Kishida said the Russian invasion of Ukraine should be a wake-up call for the region. The constant expansion of China’s military footprint across the PacificNorth Korea’s ongoing ballistic provocations and Russia’s own strategic choices in Asia – including recent military exercises that saw Russia and China jointly fly bombers over the Sea of Japan – have all bent over Kishida’s warning.
Japan’s prime minister pledged to bolster his country’s diplomatic and security presence in Asia and said Japan would even consider acquiring a preemptive strike capability – a development that could violate the country’s pacifist constitution after the Second World War. World War. But, from Tokyo’s perspective, the strategic landscape may increasingly demand it.
“It’s no wonder that while an overhaul of Japan’s constitutional article prohibiting ‘land, sea, and air forces, and other war potential’ remains unlikely, public opinion is shifting and the limits are becoming more flexible, with counterattack capabilities now in place for discussion,” wrote Singapore-based columnist Clara Ferreira Marques. “Even Kishida, whose family hails from Hiroshima and is less warmongering than other members of his party, promises a substantial increase in defense spending, a step away from the pacifist state of mind of the past decades.”
Japanese concerns, however, rarely reflect the prevailing mood elsewhere in Asia. In Singapore and at previous summits this year, diplomats from many South and Southeast Asian countries have urged their Western interlocutors to calm what is perceived as a headlong rush towards a new cold war – geopolitical clashes with Russia and China, in particular, which force other regional actors to “choose sides” in the context of competition between major powers.
Putin clarifies his imperial claims
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin seems to have heard these messages. “No one should impose binary choices on the region,” he said in Singapore. “Our fellow Indo-Pacific nations should be free to choose.”
But he denounced China’s increasingly “coercive and aggressive” approach to its territorial claims in the region and warned against Beijing doing anything unilaterally to change the status quo in force with Taiwan. Austin, like others at the Shangri-La Dialogue, invoked the war in Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian crisis poses pressing questions for all of us,” he said. “Do the rules matter? Does sovereignty matter? … The rules-based international order is just as important in the Indo-Pacific as it is in Europe.
US officials engaged in a mini-burst of quiet diplomacy with their Chinese counterparts last week after several months without meaningful contact. On Monday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan held a four-and-a-half-hour meeting with senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi in Luxembourg, which US officials called “productive” and part of efforts of the administration to “manage competition”. dynamic” with Beijing, according to Axios.
This meeting was preceded by that of Austin “Candidsit down in Singapore with Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe, where the pair discussed how to “strengthen the guardrails against conflict” and reduce the risk of miscalculation of on either side.
Members of the Chinese delegation to the Shangri La Dialogue watch and film on their phones as Ukrainian President Zelensky speaks out against disinformation and false narratives about the Russian invasion. No applause from them at the end of his speech, but more photos. pic.twitter.com/Fr8jK2s0I7
—Timothy McLaughlin (@TMclaughlin3) June 11, 2022
Wei’s public remarks conveyed a lot of enduring coldness. “We ask the US side to stop smearing and containing China,” Wei said. accusing Washington of being a “bully” and “hijacking” other Asian nations to follow its Asia-Pacific program. “If someone forces a war on China, the [People’s Liberation Army] won’t flinch.
While Wei hoped for a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, he said Beijing’s historic goal of annexing Taiwan “absolutely must be achieved.” China regards the democratic and self-governing island nation as part of its own territory, regardless of the fierce opposition of the people and government of Taiwan to unification with the mainland. Wei warned that China will “resolutely crush” any attempt by Taipei to declare formal “independence”.
Beijing’s growing rhetoric has been accompanied by an increasingly tough strategic approach. According to reports, Chinese officials privately let their American counterparts know that they no longer consider the Taiwan Strait to be international waters, a position that could have operational implications for the world’s navies.
“While the Wei-Austin meeting appeared to be about putting in place some safeguards for Taiwan, the public back and forth shows that we face a long road to any form of stability,” said Natasha Kassam, Taiwan expert at the Lowy Institute Think Tank, at the Financial Times.