SINGAPORE - The Chinese air force's aerobatics team took extra precautions, met Singapore's criteria to ensure that they are healthy and passed all checks before they came here for the upcoming air show, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Friday (Feb 7).
The fact that both the Chinese and the United States air forces are in Singapore for the biennial event, which starts next Tuesday, testifies to the strength of Singapore's relationship with the two countries, he added.
"It's really a vote for confidence. It's also a measure of how strong our relationship is," said Dr Ng, who was speaking with reporters at the Changi Air Base (East) after meeting Chinese and American air force personnel.
On Wednesday, Experia Events, which organises the Singapore Airshow, said in a statement that China's Ba Yi aerobatics team will be flying for the first time in Singapore as one of five flying display performances.
This came after the Singapore Government announced that all new visitors who have been in mainland China within the past 14 days have been barred from entry or transit in Singapore since last Saturday.
This measure was part of Singapore's efforts to keep the coronavirus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, at bay.
Asked about the public concern with the exception made for the Chinese team, Dr Ng said: "I think it's natural to be concerned, and they are just as concerned as us, because we have cases here and in fact, just like other pandemics whether it's Sars or H1N1, once it goes into the community, you can get it from anywhere.
"But we had been very careful and the PLA (People's Liberation Army) had been particularly careful that they observe all requirements that were needed to be healthy and they underwent stringent tests."
He said he was grateful to US Defence Secretary Mark Esper for accepting his invitation for the US forces to perform at the air show, which is an aerospace and defence exhibition held at the Changi Exhibition Centre till Feb 16.
For the Chinese, the invitation was sent to vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission Xu Qiliang and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe when Dr Ng visited China in October last year.
"The reason is that this year is the 30th year of diplomatic ties (between Singapore and China), and we thought that would be a good way to commemorate the anniversary," he said.
Dr Ng on Friday met air crew from the Republic of Singapore Air Force, the United States Marine Corps, the United States Pacific Air Forces and the People's Liberation Army Air Force Ba Yi aerobatics team, whose name translates to August 1.
Dr Ng was accompanied by Chief of Defence Force Melvyn Ong and Chief of Air Force Kelvin Khong, as he was given a tour of Ba Yi's J-10 fighter jets, and the United States' F-22 Raptor and the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.
These aircraft will all be performing at the Singapore Airshow for the first time.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Dr Ng said he told the pilots during his visit to keep strong and focused as they perform their aerobatic manoeuvres. This was amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has affected many countries.
"Our relationships with our close friends will withstand tough times and grow even stronger," he wrote.