Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Japanese counterpart discuss closer security ties, regional issues

Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (left) and Japanese counterpart Takeshi Iwaya exchanged views on North Korea, including ongoing efforts to deter illegal ship-to-ship transfers, as well as the South China Sea. PHOTO: MINDEF

TOKYO - Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen reviewed a Guard of Honour at the Japanese Ministry of Defence on Wednesday (May 22), and discussed the deepening of bilateral defence ties and regional security issues in an hour-long meeting with his counterpart Takeshi Iwaya.

This is the second meeting between Dr Ng and Mr Iwaya, who became defence minister in October last year and is due to visit Singapore next weekend for the Shangri-La Dialogue, a high-level annual regional security forum.

They also exchanged views on North Korea, including ongoing efforts to deter illegal ship-to-ship transfers, as well as the South China Sea, said Japan's Ministry of Defence in a statement.

Both leaders agreed to closely cooperate in ensuring the full implementation of sanctions against North Korea, under United Nations Security Council resolutions, the statement added.

The two men also discussed the further deepening of defence ties and the promotion of regional security and stability both via bilateral and multilateral frameworks, Singapore's Ministry of Defence said in a statement.

Japan's Defence Ministry said Mr Iwaya expressed appreciation for Singapore's leadership when it chaired the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) framework comprising Asean and eight regional countries last year.

Dr Ng, who is on a three-day working visit to Tokyo until Thursday (May 23), told a forum in Tokyo on Tuesday that this framework was critical in building confidence and trust, and to defuse the threat of conflict among Asian countries.

The Japanese statement said Dr Ng told Mr Iwaya that Japan plays an important role in the ADMM-Plus framework, and in this regard welcomed port calls by Japanese vessels in the region.

Japan's largest destroyer Izumo docked in Singapore on May 13 for an international maritime defence show, after taking part in a multilateral exercise among ADMM-Plus countries, jointly organised by Singapore and South Korea, that began in Busan on April 30.

It then took part in a joint naval exercise with Australia, France and the United States in a four-day drill through Wednesday (May 22), in the first such combined drill by the four nations.

Such closer security cooperation is a key plank of Japan's new five-year national defence programme guidelines that took effect last month after they were approved by the Cabinet in December last year.

This was on the agenda in Wednesday's bilateral meeting, Japan's Ministry of Defence said, citing Mr Iwaya as saying that he hoped to deepen Japan-Singapore defence ties under these new guidelines while advancing cooperation with Singapore in achieving Japan's Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision.

Dr Ng replied, according to the Japanese statement, that Singapore strongly supports the principles spelt out in Japan's new defence guidelines, and shared its view of the need to ensure free and open oceans.

During his visit, Dr Ng also met high-level Japanese officials including Mr Kentaro Sonoura, special adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; Mr Shotaro Yachi, secretary-general of Japan's National Security Secretariat; and Mr Itsunori Onodera, who is Mr Iwaya's predecessor as defence chief.

It has been 10 years since Singapore and Japan signed a memorandum on defence exchanges, under which the two countries agreed to deepen defence cooperation and interactions through high-level visits, policy dialogues, military staff talks, mutual port visits and cross-attendance of courses and seminars.

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