Singapore, Germany to cooperate against terror

MILITARY action is not the only way to thwart activities of extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has said.

There are ways to counter their influence and the impact of their radicalisation by working with community and religious leaders as well as civilian organisations.

Noting that the fight against radical groups will be a "significant challenge", he said yesterday that Singapore will "need the community on our side for this".

ISIS and other militants pose a "clear and present" threat, and it is difficult to ward off lone-wolf attacks.

The effect of the extremists' actions will harm not only civilians and innocent bystanders, but also the social fabric here, he said after talks with his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen, who is here for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue.

Describing Singapore as a "key partner" for Germany, Dr von der Leyen said both sides have agreed to expand cooperation and training exercises. Singapore's armour troops have trained in Germany since 2009.

One new focus for Singapore and Germany is the sharing of information on how to analyse the patterns behind the phenomenon of foreign fighters and what turns young people into such fighters.

Noting that one in 10 foreign fighters in ISIS is German, Dr von der Leyen said there is a risk of them returning and becoming "potential terrorists in our home countries".

Yesterday, Dr Ng also met his US counterpart Ashton Carter. Both noted the 10th anniversary of the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement, which recognises Singapore as a "major security cooperation partner" of the United States, and stated their commitment to strengthening bilateral defence cooperation further.

Defence Secretary Carter also met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Others who met Dr Ng yesterday included Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews and China's People's Liberation Army Deputy Chief of General Staff, Admiral Sun Jianguo.

jermync@sph.com.sg