IISS think tank joins World Economic Forum in scrapping high-profile Singapore events during Covid resurgence

Tighter restrictions in Singapore make in-person event unviable

Residents of a public housing estate in Singapore queue up for their mandatory coronavirus test. Reuters 
Residents of a public housing estate in Singapore queue up for their mandatory coronavirus test. Reuters 

The Shangri-La Dialogue Asian security summit that was due to be held in Singapore next month has been cancelled because of an increase in Covid-19 case numbers in the country.

Originally scheduled to take place on June 4-5, the gathering would have attracted top level military officials, diplomats and weapons makers from around the world for in-person talks.

But organisers said face-to-face meetings were no longer viable owing to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

“Unfortunately the global Covid-29 situation has recently deteriorated, in part because of the rise of infectious new Covid variants,” the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank said.

“In Singapore there has been a rise in local cases and new restrictions have recently been introduced. The prospect of further tightening cannot be ruled out. All of this creates uncertainty. Taken together these various factors mean that holding an in-person Shangri-La Dialogue this year has become unviable.”

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

A wide range of defence ministers, senior officials, corporate leaders and influential strategists from Asia, North America, the Middle East and Europe had already confirmed their attendance for this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, among them US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.

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

IISS said it would plan the return of the full in-person Shangri-La Dialogue for the middle of next year. The 2020 edition was also cancelled because of the pandemic.

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

"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.

Updated: May 21, 2021 03:56 PM

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