SINGAPORE, June 4 (Reuters) – Senior officials from about two dozen of the world’s major intelligence agencies held a secret meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security meeting in Singapore this weekend, five people said. to Reuters.
Such meetings were organized by the Singapore government and discreetly held in a separate area next to the security summit for several years, they said. The meetings have not been previously reported.
The US was represented by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, the head of her country’s intelligence community, while China was among the other countries present, despite tensions between the two superpowers.
Samant Goel, the head of the foreign intelligence gathering agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, also attended, an Indian source said.
“The meeting is an important fixture in the shadow’s international agenda,” said a person with knowledge of the discussions. “Because of the range of countries involved, this is not a festival of tradecraft, but rather a way of promoting a deeper understanding of intentions and bottom lines.
“There is an unspoken code in the intelligence services that they can negotiate when more formal and open diplomacy is more difficult – this is a very important factor in times of tension, and the event in Singapore helps to promote that.”
All five sources discussing the meetings declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.
A spokesperson for the Singapore Ministry of Defense said that while attending the Shangri-La Dialogue, “participants including senior officials from intelligence agencies are also taking the opportunity to meet their counterparts.”
“The Singapore Ministry of Defense may facilitate some of these bilateral or multilateral meetings,” the spokesperson said. “The participants found the meetings held on the (dialogue) sidelines useful.
The US Embassy in Singapore said it had no information on the meeting. The Chinese and Indian governments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand operate the so-called Five Eyes network to gather and share a wide range of intelligence, and their intelligence officials meet frequently.
Larger meetings of the intelligence community are rarer, and almost never publicized.
While few details were available on specific discussions in Singapore, Russia’s war on Ukraine and transnational crime came up in Friday’s talks, the person with knowledge of the discussions added. On Thursday night, intelligence chiefs held an informal meeting.
No Russian representative was present, one of the sources said. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Volodymr V. Havrylov, was at the Shangri-La Dialogue but said he did not attend the intelligence meeting.
Another of the sources said the tone at the meeting was collaborative and cooperative, and not confrontational.
In the main security dialogue, more than 600 delegates from 49 countries held three days of plenary sessions, as well as closed-door bilateral and multilateral meetings at the sprawling Shangri-La Hotel.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese gave the keynote address while United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu and British counterparts,
Japan, Canada, Indonesia and South Korea also spoke.
Haines was among the official US delegates to the Shangri-La Dialogue. During a discussion on cybersecurity at the main meeting, he said in response to a question from a Chinese military official that cooperation between countries is important.
“It is absolutely critical, even when there is a lack of trust, and even when you are faced with the impact of adversaries, that you still try to work and cooperate on issues of mutual interest and also try to manage the potential for increase,” he said.
US officials said Friday that CIA Director William Burns visited China last month for talks with Chinese counterparts as the Biden administration seeks to strengthen communications with Beijing.
Reporting by Xinghui Kok, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Greg Torode; Editing by Gerry Doyle
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