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Shangri-La Dialogue – The International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia Security Summit
Topic A - Aero-maritime Sovereignty in the Asia-Pacific
Topic B - The Question of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands


Initiated in 2002, the Shangri-La Dialogues are annual forums organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) –  a British independent organization that develops research and consultancy programs on global security, political risk and military conflict – to discuss, together with the defense ministers of the Asia-Pacific region, the security in the Asian continent (INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES, 2013).

Image 1 – The Shangri-La Dialogue.

In this year’s summit, a pressing topic is on the agenda, which is the issue of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. A disputed territory for centuries, these lands have created tension among China and Japan, bringing other powers to the issue, such as the United States (“US ACCUSES…”, 2013).

Legally, until 2012, the islands belonged to a Japanese private owner, and when the Japanese government tried to buy back the islands, China pressed their claims over the territory, creating a tension between the two neighbors (“HOW UNINHABITED…”, 2014).
These developments have come at ambiguous times. China has released rather reassuring documents in 2012, such as its White Defense Paper, which talks about a new concept for security (PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, 2013). After that, in 2013 the Chinese government created the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) (FALLOWS, 2013).

It is notorious that, on one hand, China reaffirms the question of a peaceful rise (BUZAN, 2010), on the other, the increase of Chinese capabilities and power projection (IISS, 2013) is not to be underestimated and creates a serious security dilemma, as Mearsheimer (2009, p. 385) stated:

  • What all of this tells us is that there is no good way to define what China’s intentions will be down the road or to predict its future behavior based on its recent foreign policies. It does seem clear, however, that China will eventually have a military with significant offensive potential.

In this sense, uncertainty rises and the only possibility for an appeasing resolution is dialogue. The IISS Asia Security Summit is a forum in which countries have no institutional ties, being the ideal enabler for multilateral talks and the development of common grounds.

Further on, the discussion of this specific topic is as important as the discussion of the more general definitions. With the goal of establishing guidelines for the future, a conceptual discussion on aero-maritime sovereignty is in need and in order. Being more than a mere political forum, the Dialogues have a deep-rooted academic calling and present themselves as an appropriate location for this important matter to be discussed.

Image 2 – The question of aero-maritime sovereignty must be addressed – the image shows a fighter formation in hedge-hopping flight.


BUZAN, Barry. “China in International Society: Is ‘Peaceful Rise’ Possible?” In: The Chinese Journal of International Politics, Vol. 3, 2010, pp.5-36.

PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA. Defense White Paper: The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces, 2012. In: Xinhuanet, April 16th, 2013. Available at: <>. Access on: 10/03/2013. 2012.


FALLOWS, James. “More on This Strange Chinese ADIZ: 'Sovereign Is as Sovereign Does'”. The Atlantic, November 27, 2013. Available at: <>. Accessed on: 17/01/2014.


“HOW UNINHABITED islands soured China-Japan ties”. BBC News – Asia. April 24, 2014. Available at: <>. Accessed on: 17/03/2014.

INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES The Military Balance. Londres: International Institute for Strategic Studies,2013.


INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES. “About Shangri-La”. International Institute for Strategic Studies Website, 2013. Available at: <>. Accessed on: 03/02/2014.


MEARSHEIMER, John. “The Gathering Storm: China’s Challenge to US Power in Asia”. In: Chinese Journal of International Politics, Vol. 3, 2009, pp. 381-396. “US ACCUSES China of acting ‘irresponsible’ in stand-off at sea”. RT Network. December 20, 2013. Available at: <>. Accessed on: 17/01/2014.

Sources of images:
Image 1 - LEE, Sheryn. The Shangri-La Dialogue. Photo by Flickr User International Institute for Strategic Studies. Singapore Diaries, June 8, 2011. Available at: <>. Access on: May 21, 2014.

Image 2 - “NEW-TYPE fighters in training”. People’s Daily Online. September 17, 2012. Photo by Cui Wenbin. Available at: <>. Access on: 05/21/2014.