The agenda revolved around issues including the Ukraine conflict and transnational crime, the agency's sources said
Senior intelligence officials from two dozen countries have held a secretive meeting in Singapore to discuss topics including the Ukraine conflict in an informal environment, Reuters reported on Sunday, citing sources.
According to five unidentified people interviewed by the agency, the talks took place on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum, and were facilitated by the Singapore government. Similar meetings are said to have been held for several years, but went unreported until now.
While 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 previously unreported spy chiefs' meeting comes after the Financial Times alleged on Friday that CIA director Bill Burns traveled to China last month to signal that Washington is extremely concerned about deteriorating Sino-American ties. Around the time of the reported visit, President Joe Biden said he expected to see a "thaw" in US relations with China.