Shangri-La conference and its importance to our overall region of the world


About 30 nations met in Singapore to discuss international security, geopolitics, and worldwide developments earlier this month. The prime ministers of Japan, Singapore, and several top military officials worldwide convened at the beautiful Shangri-La resort hotel in Singapore. Face to face meetings with international peers took place at a variety of levels, with some progress and some tensions surfacing. 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin delivered prepared remarks, as well as Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe. The U.S. and China remain at an impasse on how each nation views Taiwan. The Chinese view American assistance to Taiwan as unacceptable and have expressed very clearly that the People’s Republic of China will not hesitate to invade Taiwan should the island formally seek political independence. The United States views Taiwan as a key informal Asian partner and, while President Biden and the American administration maintain a formal One-China policy, it is also true that our nation continues to support Taiwan through arms sales, a robust economic relationship driven by microchips, and tourism. 

The United States and Taiwan also are at odds over ongoing developments associated with the South China Sea, the South Pacific, and aggregate bilateral trade. American allies throughout Asia have formally expressed the desire to support the American position over Taiwan. Japan, as just one example, supports the U.S. position on Taiwan in part through its decision to increase the acquisition of unmanned military aircraft systems and increased operational tempos of bilateral training. 

The presence of both Australian and American leaders at Shangri-La underscored the continuing importance of the U.S.-Australian bilateral agreement in place, to share nuclear-powered technology for submarine construction. The Australians continue to reassess how their military forces are postured and configured, especially as China continues to become more powerful militarily. If China obtains formal long-term access to the Solomon Islands, Australia’s eastern seaboard would become more vulnerable to Chinese espionage, surveillance, and possible attack. 

Australia remains committed to growing closer ties to the U.S. through more American troop training exercises throughout the country while maintaining strong economic ties to China. The Australians remain concerned that a Chinese takeover of Taiwan would allow China to project greater military power north to Japan, south to the Philippines, and deep into the northern Western Pacific. Australia is committed to developing long-range missile systems and anti-access/area denial capabilities moving forward. Australia is also committed to growing its overall trade relationship with China. 

Shangri-La provided the venue for both South Korea and the United States to recommit to a series of meetings this fall to discuss emerging technologies with vast military implications such as quantum computing and networking, space development, artificial intelligence, semiconductors, civilian nuclear power and batteries. 

Shangri-La also enabled the Republic of the Philippines to restate its desire to continue to grow its trade relationship with China while also growing its military-to-military relationship. The Philippines is also engaged with the United States on updating a mutual defense cooperation agreement. The Philippines is in the position to reap potentially huge benefits from working with both China and the U.S. because of its geographical, economic, political, and historical ties to mainland China. The Philippines, however, is the country that could see massive damage should a hot war between China and the U.S. take place along its western near-shore region, which borders the eastern portion of the South China Sea. 

How knowledge of geopolitics and the American-Sino arms race will help our Chamorro people
Understanding our overall region of the world, the interplay of politics, militarism, and economics will, over time, help our Chamorro Pacific Islander civilization put into further context how power politics works throughout our part of Planet Earth.

What China does and does not do impacts decisions made by the American national security community. The same holds true when reversed. China continues to fortify the South China Sea through the hardening of various islands taken over by the PRC military. China is on its way to operationalizing its third aircraft carrier that will have new technological features such as electromagnetic catapulting of fixed wing airplanes. China continues its campaign of resolve to dissuade Taiwan from seriously considering political extraction from the PRC.

On the American side, the further militarization of the Marianas and Micronesia continues unabated. The United States plans to further harden Guam as it seeks to complete the steps needed to place and operationalize a shore-based missile defense system. Missile tests continue in Palau and the Marshalls. Communications infrastructure, sensor and radar infrastructure continues to improve, but for our Chamorro people, we remain without a comprehensive nuclear bomb shelter to run to should Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands be attacked. Little evidence is available that supports the notion of any kind of reversal from the ongoing massive militarization of the Marianas and Micronesia. 

Rick Arriola Perez | Author
Rick Arriola Perez is a U.S. military veteran who has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Bank of Hawaii, and the government of Guam. He holds several degrees including ones from UCLA and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Rick is passionate about national security and foreign affairs in the Pacific Asia region and runs a blogsite called Guam Affairs at For more information, contact Perez at

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