Despite some gaps, SAF scores 'A' for security at Trump-Kim summit

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen speaking to the media ahead of the annual SAF Day on July 1, 2018.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen speaking to the media ahead of the annual SAF Day on July 1, 2018. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Short of a real war or terror attack, the recent Trump-Kim summit held in Singapore was as close or real a threat that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has had to face, and it aced the test, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

"I suppose in exam terms, this is a preliminary test which I think we scored an A. We will not get many, or if any more, such opportunities in peacetime," said Dr Ng, in an interview on Friday ahead of the SAF Day today.

He said the SAF had registered some firsts in its security deployment: putting new capabilities to test and casting a four-layered protective dome around Singapore, and particularly Sentosa where United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met at Capella Singapore on June 12.

Dr Ng said he recounted the experience not to just commend the SAF but to underscore how invaluable the summit was in validating Singapore's defence systems that were built up over more than 50 years.

He said the mission was clear: to ensure absolute safety so that Mr Trump and Mr Kim, Chairman of State Affairs Commission, could hold their historic summit with no interruptions or security challenges.

No threats were detected by the SAF or intelligence personnel from the US and North Korea in the lead-up to or during the summit, said Dr Ng, adding that he gave the SAF an A grade, not A plus, because there were some gaps identified.

"But it was a success and most importantly, the strong show of deterrence kept would-be attackers away because it was a very clear sign that the SAF means business. If you decide to undertake any mischief, we will respond with nothing held back," he added.

Dr Ng said it was challenging for the SAF given the summit was confirmed about two weeks before June 12. That the summit's timing and location were made public in advance also made it less than ideal from a security perspective, he added.In all, some 2,000 SAF personnel from the army, air force and navy were deployed for the summit, which also saw the rare use of live munitions.

The summit allowed the SAF to try out for the first time new combat equipment acquired recently, such as the Littoral Mission Vessels and the Spyder ground-based air defence systems.

The minister declined to give details on the gaps identified in the security preparations, though he said steps are being taken to close them.

"The success of the mission comes from knowing that you have fulfilled your mission obviously. I mean if you fail your mission then you've done badly," he said. "But sometimes a greater success is learning gaps in your system, and that's very valuable."

Kor Kian Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 01, 2018, with the headline 'Despite some gaps, SAF scores 'A' for security at Trump-Kim summit'. Print Edition | Subscribe