Asia defence forum focuses on new security challenges

Other News Materials 4 August 2008 11:48 (UTC +04:00)

Senior military officers from 61 countries were urged Monday to acquire new skills and develop a broader strategic outlook to deal with non-traditional security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, reported dpa.

"Many of the new security challenges will be more complex and multifaceted," Singapore's Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean told the 10th Asia-Pacific Programme for officers.

"In our increasingly interconnected world, threats can come from 360 degrees - from unexpected sources and directions," Teo warned.

For example, a country's computer and telecommunications networks could be attacked and crippled from overseas, Teo said.

Other scenarios cited were an earthquake disrupting international telecommunications traffic between Asia and America, health threats such as viral pandemics, and failed states becoming safe havens for terrorist groups and launch pads to mount attacks.

"The potential for instability will be magnified should the sub-prime crisis lead to a global economic slowdown," Teo said at the forum held on Singapore's resort island of Sentosa.

"A prolonged economic downturn could fuel nationalism, undermine regional cooperation, and bring about confrontation over long-standing territorial and other disputes."

Military officers need to learn how to operate in a multilateral environment, Teo said. "Whether it is to counter conventional threats, peace-keeping or disaster relief, they are more than likely to find themselves working with militaries and agencies from other countries."

Developing a broader strategic outlook on security issues was also essential, Teo said.

"Knowing how to take action may not be sufficient," he noted. It will also be necessary to understand the political, historical and social context within which that action is taken."