SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said on Thursday (20 May) that it supports the International Institute for Strategic Studies' (IISS) decision to cancel this year's Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in Singapore.
"Although regretful, it is the responsible course, with the health and safety of the local community and participants as the foremost consideration," said Mindef in a news release.
The annual inter-governmental security summit was set to take place on 4-5 June. Last year's summit was also cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mindef added that the IISS' decision was made in close consultation with the Singapore government and that the cancellation "in no way reflects any reduced commitment to dialogue and engagement to ensure peace and stability in Asia and beyond".
"Mindef will find alternative and safer avenues for these important goals," said the ministry.
In a separate statement on Thursday, the IISS said its cancellation of the summit was due to the worsening global COVID-19 situation.
"Unfortunately the global COVID-19 situation has recently deteriorated, in part because of the rise of infectious new COVID variants. 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.
"Taken together these various factors mean that holding an in-person Shangri-La Dialogue this year has become unviable," said the think-tank in its statement.
The cancellation comes after Mindef said on Tuesday that the IISS had reaffirmed its commitment to proceed with the event. Mindef said then, "We are encouraged by the positive response to invitations to SLD 2021, which underscore the strong commitment of government leaders in addressing security challenges even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen spoke about the event cancellation on his Facebook page, saying it is another example of how COVID-19 has disrupted all facets of lives and social discourse. "We will find alternate and safer avenues for these important goals," he added.
On Monday, the World Economic Forum said that it had called off its annual meeting in Singapore in August due to the global COVID-19 situation. Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry said then, "We will continue to work actively with the World Economic Forum and other key international organisations to promote collaborations between stakeholders on issues of global concern."
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