French defence minister pitches for Asia-Pacific arms market at Singapore forum
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France hopes to sell more weapons to Asia-Pacific countries and step up military cooperation with them, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a regional security forum in Singapore this weekend.
The Asia-Pacific region “remains a strategic challenge”, Le Drian told the annual Shangri-La Dialogue meeting, pledging that France will “remain resolutely committed to security” there, despite pressures on its budget and geographical difference.
The Asia-Pacific region produces 60 per cent of the world’s GDP and represents half of world trade, partly due to China’s rapid growth but also due to developing economies in south and south-east Asia.
In 2012 Asian countries’ joint military spending for the first time outstripped that of the European countries in the Nato military alliance.
France wants part of that market and Le Drian said he hoped to increase “cooperation in armaments and defence equipment”, a well as holding more joint exercises.
Paris already works with Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam and hopes to work more closely with the Asean regional grouping.
With several countries squabbling over the ownership of islands in the strategically vital South China Sea, Le Drian called for a “code of conduct” for maritime security there and, as Washington accuses China of cyber-espionage, he insisted that the “cybernetic threat” is a major priority for the new French military strategy.
Several countries inquired about France’s “anti-terrorist” capacity in the light of the intervention in Mali, the AFP news agency reports.
Le Drian was accompanied by Chief of Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud and other top defence officials.