Singapore and China have pledged to strengthen defence cooperation across the region, including working towards holding another joint maritime exercise.
This commitment, following a meeting of defence chiefs in Beijing yesterday, comes a day after Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen called on China to engage more with other countries to assure them that its rise is peaceful.
Dr Ng arrived in Beijing on Tuesday night from Zhanjiang in Guangdong province, where he had surveyed the ongoing Asean-China Maritime Exercise.
He met his counterpart, General Wei Fenghe, yesterday morning and told him Asean's defence ministers were "very happy that we are able to hold such an exercise". "All of them agree that this is very good and important for Asean-China relations," said Dr Ng at the start of the meeting, when reporters were present.
The exercise, which involves over 1,000 personnel, began on Monday and will include helicopter cross-deck landings and a joint search-and-rescue operation.
Dr Ng began his five-day visit to China on Monday. Besides visiting the maritime exercise and meeting Chinese defence leaders, he is scheduled to speak at the Xiangshan Forum, a security conference, today.
Dr Ng also thanked Gen Wei for supporting the recently concluded Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) in Singapore and its expanded platform ADMM-Plus.
At the meeting last week between Asean ministers and Gen Wei, the Chinese minister had proposed three new areas to deepen China's defence engagement with Asean: establishing an Asean-China communications hotline, having exchanges between think-tanks and a young leaders' exchange programme.
Dr Ng said Singapore "fully supports" these initiatives.
Gen Wei said the success of the ADMM-Plus, which also includes the United States, Russia, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, was a result of Singapore's efforts, and reflects the country's important influence in regional and international affairs.
Gen Wei said he has a "good and deep impression" of Dr Ng, adding that both sides have reached consensus on regional and international affairs. He noted that Dr Ng had "agreed without hesitation" when China had invited him to the Xiangshan Forum, which reflected the importance Singapore placed on bilateral defence relations with China.
"I believe your visit to China will play a very active and positive role in enhancing mutual understanding and trust," said Gen Wei.
On bilateral ties, Dr Ng said: "I'd like to thank the Chinese leaders for our good relations."
Singapore's Defence Ministry statement said both leaders agreed to continue high-level visits and discussed ways to expand cooperation. They also look forward to a joint army exercise to be held next year.