Singapore will find ways to step up military ties with China: Ng Eng Hen

Defence minister Ng Eng Hen (right) toured the PLA Navy's newest missile corvette Fushun at the Qingdao naval base, which is the headquarters for the PLA Navy's North Sea Fleet. -- ST PHOTO: JERMYN CHOW
Defence minister Ng Eng Hen (right) toured the PLA Navy's newest missile corvette Fushun at the Qingdao naval base, which is the headquarters for the PLA Navy's North Sea Fleet. -- ST PHOTO: JERMYN CHOW

QINGDAO (CHINA) - Singapore will find ways to step up military ties with China, on the back of the mutual confidence both nations have built up over the years, said visiting defence minister Ng Eng Hen.

Although Singapore has a small navy, its Chinese counterpart knows that the Republic is a "good friend" and that bilateral relations are strong, said Dr Ng. "We treasure each other's confidence...and we will continue to find ways to step up defence relations."

Dr Ng was speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the fourth day of his China trip, after touring the Qingdao naval base, the headquarters of the People's Liberation Army Navy's North Sea Fleet. Accompanied by senior military officers and defence policy makers, Dr Ng met the northern fleet's chief of staff, Rear-Admiral Wei Gang, and also checked out the Chinese navy's latest missile corvette, Fushun.

The 89m stealth warship, which went operational four months ago, features anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-submarine torpedos, among other weapons. Noting that the Chinese navy opens up its newest warship and weapons only to "selected guests", Dr Ng said: "It speaks of a PLA Navy that is confident of its abilities and also very professional in its military outlook."

Radm Wei said the northern fleet and the Republic of Singapore Navy are "old friends" with sailors and ships involved in multi-lateral sea drills and calling at each other's ports. Moving forward, the North Sea Fleet will continue to build "strategic trust" with its Singapore counterpart.

For instance, the fleet is in the midst of selecting the first-ever PLA Navy officer to be based in a Singapore-based maritime security watch group, the Information Fusion Centre, which is housed in Changi Naval Base.