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Rudd at the Shangri-La Dialogue

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COMMENTS

30 May 2009 14:04

Prime Minister Rudd’s speech to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last night marks a welcome evolution of his thinking on Asia-Pacific security and regional diplomatic arrangements.

It was a clever speech – his best-crafted statement on foreign and security policy so far – which managed somehow to connect the global economic crisis, the G20, the idea of an Asia-Pacific Community, Australia’s recent Defence White Paper and, of course, the hot topic of the week, North Korea’s nuclear intransigence.

After the controversy and oddness of some aspects of the Defence White Paper, with its media drumbeat about China as potential future adversary, it was refreshing to hear in the Singapore speech a restoration of balance in Australia’s rhetoric about the future of the Asia-Pacific region. Mr Rudd answered the obvious tricky question (doesn’t a doubling of Australian naval power contradict the campaign for a cooperative regional future?) the only way he could: he believes that both tracks — one of strategic prudence and one of diplomatic creativity — can and should be pursued at the same time.

On regional architecture, the speech wisely steered a path between calling for an overhaul of regional meetings – one summit which would ensure a place for key powers the US, China, Japan and India – and giving suitable recognition to the achievements of ASEAN. 

I’ll seek to offer more detail and insights on some of this shortly. For now, I should note that, while listening to Rudd, I found myself seated with an Indian journalist on one side and a Chinese official on another. Both told me they were impressed with the speech, and at least one of them was being more than just polite.

Photo courtesy of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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