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Asia Security Summit Set to Open

Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has urged greater regional cooperation in Asia and a show of unified strength against North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Mr. Rudd was speaking to delegates from 27 countries attending an Asian security summit set to open in Singapore.

Defense officials and experts gathered in Singapore Friday for Asia's premier security summit, the Shangri-La Dialogue.

The annual summit brings together the region's top security players to discuss cooperation and preventing conflict in Asia.

Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, gave a keynote speech Friday night to delegates attending the meeting.

Mr. Rudd said events in Asia this century would shape much of the world's critical history and that the region needed a mechanism for comprehensive cooperation. He urged countries to consider his proposal to form an "Asia Pacific Community" by the year 2020 to prevent what he called "strategic drift" and polarization.

"Your challenge is to go beyond describing the trends that we see, said Mr. Rudd. "It is to go beyond reacting to the trends that we see. Your challenge is to take the next step, the more difficult step, and think about how we can actively shape those trends for our common regional interests for the future."

Mr. Rudd said the kind of community he envisioned would also promote transparency and help build regional confidence.

North Korea's threat

The summit, which officially opens Saturday, is expected to focus on dealing with North Korea after it defied the world earlier this month by testing a second nuclear device. North Korea tested its first nuclear device in 2006.

Mr. Rudd told delegates North Korea's nuclear ambitions were a threat to peace and stability in their region. "The nuclear test, coupled with the North's ongoing missile development program, is yet another provocative act."

"The international community must respond with one voice and with a common program of action against Pyongyang. The United Nations Security Council must be of common resolve against a regime which is so reckless in relation to our common security," he added.

The Shangri-La Dialogue is organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Adam Ward is director of studies for the London-based think tank. He told journalists much of the attention at the meeting would be on North Korea's traditional ally, China.

"Many people will be looking to China for a clearer articulation of its policy toward North Korea and the extent to which its patience with North Korea has or has not run out," he said. "And, the actions that it might be willing to take in the U.N. Security Council and in other venues."

The three day security summit will also address America's role in the region in facing the growing power and influence of China.

Mr. Rudd said the United States was a stabilizing power in the Asia Pacific and would continue to be the major power for at least the next two decades.

Other major topics include "winning counter insurgencies" and "strengthening defense diplomacy."