Defence chiefs from FPDA members meet in Singapore to discuss regional security concerns

Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen hosting a lunch for the defence chiefs of the Five Power Defence Arrangements member-nations on Oct 15, 2019.
Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen hosting a lunch for the defence chiefs of the Five Power Defence Arrangements member-nations on Oct 15, 2019.PHOTO: MINDEF

SINGAPORE - Defence chiefs from five countries met on Tuesday (Oct 15) to discuss ways to tackle new security threats in the region, even as they looked forward to the jubilee of their security pact in 2021.

The Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) conference, which saw military chiefs of Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom in attendance, began on Monday and will end on Wednesday.

This year, the chiefs issued a directive which they said will guide the development of future FPDA activities in today's transformed security environment, citing counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and maritime concerns as key common issues.

The Straits Times understands that the new directive does not include cyber-defence elements.

Established in 1971 among the five countries, the FPDA is a regional security pact set up after the United Kingdom withdrew most of its military forces from East of the Suez Canal.

A standard directive is typically issued at every FPDA conference - held in Singapore and Malaysia in turns - and guides the development of future FPDA military exercises.

Singapore's Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong, who chaired the conference at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Tuesday, said: "The FPDA continues to be a constructive arrangement, allowing the militaries from (the five countries) to work together and build professional relationships to address the security threats of the day."

He said that FPDA's military exercises have over the years incorporated more non-conventional elements such as counter-terrorism and humanitarian and disaster relief, which this year's Exercise Bersama Lima at Butterworth Air Base in Penang also focused on.

The defence chiefs will fly up to Penang to observe the exercise, which is held from Oct 1 to Oct 17, on Wednesday. The exercise involves about 3000 people, seven ships, 48 aircraft, one submarine, two dive teams and other support elements from the five FPDA member-nations.


Malaysia's CDF General Tan Sri Zulkifli Zainal Abidin also reaffirmed the importance of the FPDA for regional security, saying: " The participating nations have been very encouraging in whatever we do. Many initiatives have been brought forward to make sure (the arrangement)stays relevant for the future."

On Tuesday afternoon, the defence chiefs were also hosted to lunch by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Singapore's Minister for Defence.