SINGAPORE – Singapore and China have agreed to deepen collaboration between their armed forces following a meeting of defence ministers from both countries.
China’s Defence Minister, General Chang Wanquan, proposed to deepen army and navy cooperation with Singapore through joint exercises, port calls and other exchanges, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said in a statement on Monday (Feb 5).
He met Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday morning at Mindef and both men met again for dinner later in the evening.
Gen Chang, who arrived in Singapore on Sunday for an official introductory visit, is among several high-ranking defence officials in Singapore for meetings with their Asean counterparts as well as to attend the Singapore Airshow.
The US Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein called on Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung on Monday and they also discussed ways to enhance bilateral defence cooperation.
Mindef said that during the morning meeting with Gen Chang, Dr Ng accepted an invitation from his Chinese counterpart to attend the Xiangshan Forum, a high-level regional security forum in China.
Gen Chang also invited Mindef and SAF leaders to visit China, and Dr Ng welcomed high-level visits from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to Singapore, said Mindef.
“Both ministers also discussed regional security issues, and agreed on the need to have open and inclusive security architectures,” said the statement.
Mindef said that Gen Chang expressed China's support for Singapore's chairmanship of Asean this year, adding that Beijing would work with Singapore to deepen relations between China and the regional grouping. Gen Chang also said he appreciated Singapore's work as Asean-China country coordinator from 2015 to 2018, and how this has helped improve defence ties between both sides.
Mindef said that Gen Chang's introductory visit "underscores the warm and friendly bilateral defence relations between Singapore and China".
In a Facebook post, Dr Ng said that he was "happy and honoured to host my good friend" on his visit to Singapore, noting that this was their 7th meeting together.
"I was very touched when (Gen Chang) said to me during this visit, 'Coming to Singapore, is not like going away, but visiting good friends in the same town'," wrote Dr Ng.
The Singapore defence minister said that that he and Gen Chang agreed to further enhance interactions between the PLA and the Singapore Armed Forces.
In 2014, both countries pledged to deepen defence relations based on a four-point consensus. Under the consensus, Singapore and China pledged a steady development of the defence relationship, based on mutual respect and accommodating each other's security concerns for mutual trust.
The Chinese defence chief is scheduled to call on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday and also have breakfast with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. He is due to leave Singapore on Thursday.
Gen Chang and Dr Ng will co-chair the Asean-China Defence Ministers' Informal Meeting on Tuesday, which is taking place alongside the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) Retreat.
Gen Chang was also hosted to lunch by Mr Ong on Monday.
Mr Ong, in a Facebook post, said that they discussed initiatives to advance Asean-China relations such as the inaugural Asean-China Maritime exercise which is being planned, the regional security situation and other developments such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“Bilateral defence ties between Singapore and China are strong and flourishing,” said Mr Ong.
In a separate statement, Mindef said Mr Ong also discussed ways to enhance defence cooperation with Gen Goldfein on Monday.
“Both sides discussed ways to enhance bilateral defence cooperation, and reaffirmed the importance of the US’ continued engagement of the Asia-Pacific for regional peace and security,” the statement said.
Mr Ong also thanked Gen Goldfein for US support for the Singapore Airshow, where US military assets are on display.
“Gen Goldfein’s visit underscores the excellent and long-standing defence relations between Singapore and the US,” said Mindef.