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Preventing Conflict and Building Confidence

The bottom line is the resolve of states not to allow disputes between or among them evolve into actual military conflict. This was stressed by Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop in his remarks during the Fullerton Forum's panel on preventing conflict and building confidence on January 23.

Inspite positively noting that states in the region have such resolve, incidents and accidents leading to actual conflict may occur, he acknowledged. In the context of the South China Sea disputes, the adoption of a binding code of conduct, which has been in the works since 2002, would be an effective tool to ensue that incidents do not worsen or escalate. The presence of hotlines or mechanisms for defense ministers to directly communicate with each other could defuse tension and enable defense authorities to respond to emergent situations.

Meanwhile, exchanges from the highest levels of political leadership and defense authorities to officers among naval forces and coastguards could help build confidence where such is wanting. Even interaction among fisher folks could contribute in building confidence, enabling governments to address the increasing number of challenges in the maritime domain.

Annually held in January since 2013, the Fullerton Forum has become an effective preparatory meeting for the Asia Security Summit popularly known as the Shangri-la Dialogue held in June each year also in Singapore.