WASHINGTON - Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, has reaffirmed Singapore's commitment to the efforts to combat terrorism, and emphasised the importance of international cooperation and intelligence sharing.
Speaking at the Meeting of Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, hosted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Wednesday (Feb 6), he said that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group poses a clear and present danger to South-east Asia.
"Setbacks in the Middle East have only prompted ISIS to focus elsewhere, including in our region, where it has declared its intention to set up a wilayat. Just last month, ISIS-linked terrorists set off twin bomb attacks in a cathedral in South Philippines, killing at least 20 and injuring over 100," he said.
"With over 1,000 foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria from South-east Asia, there is a very real threat posed by returning fighters and radicalised individuals, enticed by ISIS' pervasive ideology in cyberspace."
He highlighted the efforts by Singapore, the first South-east Asian country to join the Coalition, in fighting global terrorism, both at abroad and at home, including the SGSecure national movement which "aims to sensitise, train and mobilise the community to play a part to prevent and deal with a terror attack".
He also pointed out how Singapore has implemented a mandatory accreditation scheme, known as the Asatizah Recognition Scheme, to manage Islamist teaching in Singapore by only qualified Islamic religious teachers and scholars. The Religious Rehabilitation Group voluntary organisation has actively worked with individuals and communities to counter radicalisation efforts, both online and offline.
Meanwhile, "the Singapore Armed Forces has deployed Imagery Analysis Teams, KC-135R air-to-air refuelling tanker aircraft, and medical teams to support the Coalition's efforts. This year, we are committed to building the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces through the deployment of our Counter-Terrorism Training Unit", he added.
But international cooperation and intelligence sharing are also key to deterring terrorist attacks. Last year, as chair of the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting, Singapore facilitated the adoption of the "Our Eyes" Initiative - an intelligence-sharing platform aimed at improving cooperation on security threats against Islamist militants.
Last October, Singapore also hosted the Southeast Asia Counter-Terrorism Symposium to foster regional cooperation in tackling the threat of terrorism, and a month later, launched the inaugural Police Specialist Conference to enhance international cooperation in combating terrorism.
"Combating terrorism requires a concerted, committed, and holistic response. Singapore will continue to explore how we may contribute to the Coalition and other counter-terrorism initiatives, as well as facilitate counter-terrorism intelligence-sharing cooperation in the region," said Dr Maliki, who was in Washington Feb 5 to 7.
During his visit, he met Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale.
Both sides affirmed the robust and longstanding bilateral relations between Singapore and the US, and discussed the US' deepening engagement of the region in the areas of infrastructure, smart cities and cybersecurity.
He also met with National Security Adviser to the Vice-President Keith Kellogg, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randy Schriver, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry (Republican, Texas) and Member of the HASC Joe Courtney (Democrat, Connecticut).
Both sides discussed ways to further advance bilateral relations, and exchanged views on developments in the Asia-Pacific region as well as ways to enhance US-Asean cooperation.