Senior intelligence officers from two dozen nations met in secret in Singapore to talk informally about issues like the war in Ukraine, according to a report by Reuters on Sunday. The Ukraine war and transnational crime were on the table, according to the agency’s sources.
The Shangri-La Dialogue security forum was the backdrop for the meetings, which, according to five unnamed people questioned by the agency, were facilitated by the Singaporean government. Similar gatherings allegedly occurred for several years but were never disclosed until recently.
The exact list of countries in attendance is unclear, the gathering’s participants reportedly included Director of US National Intelligence Avril Haines, as well as Indian and Chinese officials.
A Reuters source noted that no Russian representative was present, while Ukraine’s deputy defense minister Vladimir Gavrilov said he was at the Shangri-La Dialogue summit, but never attended the meeting.
Although the agenda details are sketchy, the intelligence chiefs also reportedly discussed efforts to counter transnational crime.
“The meeting is an important fixture on the international shadow agenda,” one Reuters source stated, describing the gathering as “not a festival of tradecraft, but rather a way of promoting a deeper understanding of intentions and bottom lines”.
The source added that “there is an unspoken code among intelligence services that they can talk when more formal and open diplomacy is harder.” Another Reuters source described the tone of the meeting as cooperative, and not confrontational.
The Shangri-La Dialogue security summit has been organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an independent UK-based think tank, on a regular basis since 2002. It serves as a platform for debating Asia-Pacific’s security issues and promoting dialogue.
The Financial Times reported on Friday that CIA director Bill Burns visited China last month to convey that Washington is gravely concerned about the state of Sino-American relations. This led to the previously unknown meeting of spy chiefs. President Joe Biden predicted a “thaw” in US-Chinese relations around the time of the rumored visit.