Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen got a first-hand look yesterday at a United States Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft deployed to Singapore, when he took a flight over the Malacca Strait with his US counterpart Ashton Carter.
Both men flew for an hour over the strait, a vital trade waterway.
Speaking at a joint press conference yesterday, Dr Ng said the flight underscored the shared belief in the importance of maritime security and that the "waters around our region are critical" to global trade.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Dr Ng said the P-8 deployment would provide timely support not only for maritime security, but also for humanitarian and disaster relief operations. For instance, the plane was deployed to locate Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants at sea last year, he said. The year before, it supported search efforts for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.
Before the P-8 flight, Dr Ng and Dr Carter met for breakfast on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, which opened last night.
Both men also visited the Singapore Armed Forces Imagery Support Group, where Dr Carter was briefed on Singapore's efforts in the multinational coalition battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
PROTECTING GLOBAL COMMONS
Let me give you a practical answer to a theoretical question. Singapore believes in global commons, critical waterways where we ought to do our part. We have to come together to cooperate, to preserve and protect our global commons and that would apply to the Strait of Malacca or the South China Sea or any other water body that is critical to global commerce.
SINGAPORE DEFENCE MINISTER NG ENG HEN, on whether Singapore will participate in air or sea patrols in the South China Sea.
VITAL PARTNER IN MARITIME SECURITY
There is no country and no geography in the world that compares to Singapore for the importance it has in the field of maritime security, which all of our countries depend on. So we are grateful to have a partner here in that field.
US DEFENCE SECRETARY ASHTON CARTER, on how Singapore is a valuable partner to the US.
The Imagery Analysis Team has been deployed to the Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters in Kuwait since last September.
Dr Carter thanked Singapore for all its contributions, noting that this year marks 50 years of formal diplomatic ties.
Both sides boosted defence ties by signing a memorandum of understanding in 1990 and a Strategic Framework Agreement in 2005.
Last December, Dr Ng and Dr Carter signed an enhanced defence pact, under which both militaries will strengthen ties and step up cooperation in new areas such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cyber defence and biosecurity.
Singapore also hosts rotational deployments of US littoral combat ships.
Dr Carter said the more countries worked together, the better, adding that a US presence in the region contributed to the stability that had allowed "economic and human prosperity" over the past few decades.
"That climate of peace and stability is very important as it is essential to continuing human progress that is so wonderfully exemplified by this very city-state that we are in today," he said.