SINGAPORE - Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has been conferred France's highest award, an honour which he described as a "strong testament to the deep and growing defence and people-to-people ties" between the two countries.
Dr Ng was conferred the title of Officer in the Legion of Honour by French president Emmanuel Macron, Singapore's Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said in a statement early on Tuesday (Feb 20).
In a speech at the award ceremony in Paris on Monday, Dr Ng said France and Singapore have an "affinity and commitment to each other" despite being in different parts of the world, and not sharing a common culture or history.
Dr Ng, who was presented with the award by French Defence Minister Florence Parly, said in response to her comments: "And then we are bonded, you said, our hearts beat as one, our strong ties which both Prime Ministers elevated to a strategic partnership in 2012.
"I think it is based fundamentally on shared universal values and a vision for our individual countries and beyond."
France has contributed significantly to Singapore's security and safety, said Dr Ng, noting that both countries' special forces train together against the threat of terrorists, while scientists and engineers work in each other's laboratories and together in cyber space.
The Legion of Honour is France's highest award to recognise outstanding service by civilians or military personnel, regardless of their citizenship.
Past Singaporean recipients of the award include former Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Winston Choo, in 1992.
In September last year, Mr Liew Mun Leong, chairman of Changi Airport Group and Surbana Jurong and Nanyang Technological University don Lam Khin Yong were both conferred the rank of Knight.
Prior to the ceremony held at the Ministry of the Armed Forces, Dr Ng reviewed a French Honour Guard and met Ms Parly, the statement said.
"Both ministers reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening bilateral defence cooperation and discussed security developments of mutual interest," the statement added.
As part of his two-day programme to Paris, Dr Ng also visited the French aeronautics, space and defence research laboratory, Onera.
There, he was briefed on the existing collaboration between Mindef and Onera.
Mindef said in the statement that Dr Ng's visit "underscores the strong and broad-based defence relationship between Singapore and France".
Both armed forces and defence establishments have had regular high-level interactions, including policy dialogues, professional exchanges, joint military exercises, and cross-attendance of courses, the statement said.
For example, the Republic of Singapore Air Force has conducted its advanced jet training in Cazaux, south of France, since 1998.
Both countries also have a range of bilateral defence technology interactions and exchanges, including the Singapore and France Advanced Research Initiative meetings.
"These wide-ranging interactions have strengthened the friendship and mutual understanding between both countries," Mindef added.