Shangri-La Dialogue 2024

The AMC's Graeme Acton is attending the 2024 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore this weekend, and checks on the opening keynote address.

Philippines President Ferdinain nd R. Marcos Jr. made an historic address on Friday evening at the opening of the 21st International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier annual defence forum, held at the plush Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore,

President Marcos is the first Philippine leader to deliver a keynote message for the SLD, which runs across the weekend,, attracting defence ministers, analysts, military top brass, business leaders, academics and more than 300 global media.

In a wide-ranging speech which cast an eye across many regional tensions, Marcos pulled no punches in laying out his perspectives on the vexed issue of the West Philippines Sea, the focus of considerable on-going tension between Manila and Beijing.

Off the back of an introduction from IISS Chairman John Chipman which outlined an increasingly fractured global geopolitical picture, President Marcos outlined his country’s moves to secure rights to the West Philippines Sea in the face of China’s direct threat to the region, which flies in the face of international law.

“The lines that we draw in our waters are not derived from our imagination, but from international law.” he told the audience. “The life-giving waters of the West Philippines Sea flow in the blood of every Filipino. We cannot allow anyone to detach it from the totality of the maritime domain that renders our nation whole.”

He repeatedly emphasised the importance of the waterway to global trade and economy, and the importance of the post-1945 rules-based order, a concept looking increasingly battered in the last few years.

President Marcos went on to discuss pressures faced by Asian nations as the strategic competition between the US and China is “permeating the evolving regional landscape.”

“This rivalry is constraining the strategic choices of regional states” he said, “this contest is exacerbating flashpoints and has created new security dilemmas.”

While the presentation had an underlying theme critical of China, Marcos also looked to a renewal of the ideals at play in San Francisco in 1945, where the United Nations was born – with full support from China.

“Those that came before us in the last century worked painstakingly to bury the era of spheres of influence and buffer states – we should not allow its ghost to haunt our region once again.”

He went on to discuss nuclear weapons, climate change, Taiwan, North Korea, and robotic warfare.

But the speech revolved around China and its relationship with the Philippines, a relationship still strained by the West Philippine Sea issue.

“Illegal, coercive, aggressive and deceptive actions continue to violate our sovereign rights, and attempts to apply domestic laws and regulations beyond one’s territorial jurisdiction violate international law, exacerbate tensions, and undermine regional peace and security.” he said.

Previous keynote speakers at the Shangri-La Dialogue have included Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Other high-profile speakers this year include US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, and Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun.

The pair met earlier on Friday on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue to discuss U.S.-PRC defence relations, as well as regional and global security issues.

Austin also took the opportunity to register US concern at recent PLA activity around the Taiwan Strait, military manoeuvres Beijing described as “punishment” for a general election result which delivered a distinctly anti-Beijing candidate to the top job.

The US Defence Minister reiterated that the PRC should not use Taiwan’s political transition as a pretext for coercive measures.  Mr Austin underscored that the United States remains committed to its longstanding One China policy, and emphasised the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

A Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman said Minister Dong reiterated that new measures enabling military-to-military communications between the two powers “does not come by easily and shall be cherished dearly.”

Dong also said that when it comes to areas surrounding China, especially the South China Sea, commercial ships and aircraft “can always operate safely,” but that “there is a huge difference between freedom and wilfulness, and between navigation and trespassing.”

“It is important to respect others’ security concerns, and security should be mutually respected. No one can pursue one’s security at the expense of another country’s security,” Dong said, according to the ministry spokesperson.

The Dialogue continues tomorrow, with speeches from Indonesia's President-elect Prabowo Subianto and US Secretary of Defence Austin are scheduled for Saturday.

Founded in 1958, the IISS is the leading global authority on geopolitics and strategy, and acting as a conduit for analysis and debate on issues around geopolitics, power, and conflict.


  • Asia Media Centre