Sunday, June 1, 2008

Shangri-La Dialogue: Stop treating Europe as junior partner, France tells Asia

SINGAPORE, June 1, 2008 (AFP) - Asia must stop treating Europe as a junior partner, French Defence Minister Herve Morin warned Sunday, in a call for both sides to step up cooperation on terrorism and other security issues.
Addressing a regional security forum, he said Southeast Asia in particular would in future hold a "major strategic stake" for Europe.
"During the 25 years to come, the centre of gravity of the world will move more and more toward Asia," Morin, whose country will take over the presidency of the European Union on July 1, told the conference in Singapore.
"We are no longer in an environment that was long ago described as 'benign neglect' by Europe about Asia by a Singaporean prime minister. Symmetrically, Asia should not consider Europe as a second-ranking partner."
Morin told the forum of defence ministers, military chiefs, diplomats and experts that Asia and Europe needed to have stronger intelligence-sharing on terrorism, notably about Al-Qaeda and its branches.
"There is never enough transparency and communication on these topics," he said, adding: "Countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is also a priority."
He called for cooperation against maritime piracy and offered France's help with averting any problems that may arise as Southeast Asia's submarine forces patrol shallow waters and narrow routes.
Morin also said governments must discuss how to better organise assets in case of another European humanitarian operation in Southeast Asia, following the cyclone in Myanmar and earthquake in southwest China.
European nations colonised much of Asia but the United States has been the pre-eminent military, political and economic power in the region since the end of World War II.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates assured the Singapore forum on Saturday that Washington's military engagement in Asia will remain strong regardless of the outcome of the upcoming US presidential elections

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