Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore canceled due to pandemic

A Gurkha police officer stands guard outside the venue of the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, May 31, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim/File Photo
  • Annual event draws top defence, security officials
  • Dialogue canceled for second successive year
  • Singapore defence ministry says supports decision

SINGAPORE, May 20 (Reuters) - The Shangri-La Dialogue Asian security summit that was due to be held in Singapore next month has been canceled, the organisers said on Thursday, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including on the host country.

This year's event, which is arranged by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), was scheduled to take place from June 4–5.

The forum has typically attracted top level military officials, diplomats and weapons makers from around the globe since its launch in 2002. read more

The global COVID-19 situation has recently deteriorated, with the rise of infectious new virus variants, IISS said.

"In Singapore there has been a rise in local cases, recently introduced new restrictions, and the prospect of further tightening cannot be ruled out – all of which creates uncertainty," it said.

"Taken together these various factors mean that holding an in-person Shangri-La Dialogue this year has become unviable."

A wide range of defence ministers, senior officials, corporate leaders and influential strategists from Asia, North America, the Middle East and Europe had confirmed their attendance.

Attendees of the 2019 event included China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe and then-acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was to attend the summit this year.

Singapore has in recent days imposed some of the tightest restrictions since it exited a lockdown last year to combat a spike in local infections.

The IISS move comes three days after the World Economic Forum canceled its annual meeting due to be held in Singapore this year. read more

IISS will plan the return of the full in-person Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in the middle of next year. The 2020 edition was also canceled due to the pandemic.

Singapore's defence ministry said it supported the decision to cancel, calling it regretful but the responsible course.

"The cancellation of the SLD in no way reflects any reduced commitment to dialogue and engagement to ensure peace and stability in Asia and beyond," the ministry said, adding it will "find alternative and safer avenues for these important goals".

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore Editing by Ed Davies

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