Singapore to extend SAF contribution to counter-ISIS coalition, says PM Lee Hsien Loong at meeting with President Trump

PM Lee and US President Trump deliver their joint statement at the Rose Garden on Oct 23, 2017.
PM Lee and US President Trump deliver their joint statement at the Rose Garden on Oct 23, 2017.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
PM Lee meeting US President Trump at the White House, on Oct 23, 2017.
PM Lee meeting US President Trump at the White House, on Oct 23, 2017.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Singapore will extend to next year its existing deployment of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) assets and personnel to the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

He gave this commitment to US President Donald Trump during their meetings at the White House on Monday (Oct 23, US time), Mr Lee said at a joint press conference after both leaders met.

Singapore and the United States have strong defence ties, Mr Lee said, adding that Singapore supports the US military presence in the region, and has hosted US Air Force and US Navy aircraft and ships on rotational deployments since 1990.

He also thanked the US for hosting over 1,000 Singapore military personnel each year in training detachments - in Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix and Marana, Arizona, at Mountain Home Air Base in Idaho, at Grand Prairie, Texas, and in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Republic of Singapore Air Forces (RSAF) Chinooks and military personnel in Grand Prairie were deployed to assist in disaster relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

"We are glad to have been of help," PM Lee said.

This close partnership extends to other areas of security cooperation - including transnational security, terrorism and cybersecurity, he noted.

Singapore has lent early and consistent support to the Defeat-ISIS Coalition, he added.

It is the only Asian country to contribute both military assets and personnel.

Singapore first announced its intention to contribute to the coalition in 2014.

The SAF has since deployed troops to provide imagery and intelligence analysis support to the coalition's Combined Joint Task Force, as well as a KC-135R tanker aircraft to support air-to-air refuelling operations for coalition aircraft.

The tanker squadron's contributions came during a crucial period leading up to the liberation of Mosul from ISIS in July, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen noted recently.

A SAF medical team in Iraq is also part of this effort to support coalition forces in the fight against terrorism.

Earlier in the day, PM Lee spoke at the Economic Club of Washington D.C. The session was moderated by President of the Economic Club of Washington D.C. and CEO of The Carlyle Group David Rubenstein.

In the afternoon, following their four-eye meeting in the Oval Office, PM Lee and President Trump witnessed the signing ceremony between Singapore Airlines and Boeing for the purchase of 39 Boeing planes at the White House.

President Trump subsequently hosted a working luncheon for PM Lee together with Cabinet Secretaries and key White House officials.

President Trump accepted PM Lee’s invitation to visit Singapore next year, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

PM Lee also met Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, during which they reaffirmed the strong and mutually beneficial trade and investment linkages between Singapore and the US, and the importance of continued US economic engagement of the Asia-Pacific, the statement said.