2nd June 2023 – (Singapore) Experts have warned that the world is experiencing the most significant military buildup since World War II, with countries increasing their military budgets, holding more joint military training, and boosting weapons manufacturing. The remarks were made on the first day of this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, which is taking place in Singapore from 2nd to 4th June, and involves 41 countries. While the US has more experience in military deployment, China has the infrastructure in place to grow its military capabilities at a faster rate.
Ankit Panda, Stanton Senior Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that countries in Asia and Southeast Asia are looking to strengthen themselves in the maritime domain, primarily to patrol their territorial waters and protect their exclusive economic zones. He noted that the U.S. and China are growing their military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific, and warned that it adds to the possibility of potential conflicts erupting in the region, between China and the US or its allies, as China seeks to have a world-class military.
Gregory Poling, director of the Southeast Asia Program and Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that China has been increasingly aggressive in the region in recent times. He cited a Chinese fighter jet carrying out a manoeuvre near a U.S. military plane in international airspace over the South China Sea last week as an example, and warned of the risks of an accidental escalation of events in the region.
Mr Panda also noted that nuclear weapons have taken on a “newfound salience in Asia,” with countries beefing up their nuclear warheads. China is expanding the size of its nuclear stockpile, largely out of a belief that conflict with the United States is more likely, and that Washington will behave more carefully if China has a larger and more capable nuclear force, he said.
Despite this, most of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states still want to maintain positive relations with both the U.S. and China.