SINGAPORE - Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and his Malaysian counterpart Ismail Sabri Yaakob held their first bilateral meeting on Tuesday (April 27), reaffirming defence ties and their support for the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), which marks its 50th anniversary this year.
In a statement, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said that while Covid-19 is likely to preclude a full-scale Exercise Bersama Lima involving the FPDA countries, a scaled-down version will still be held this year to signal the "strong commitment" of all five countries to the security arrangement.
Besides Singapore and Malaysia, the FPDA also includes Australia, New Zealand and Britain.
The two ministers - who met via videoconference - reaffirmed their commitment to maintain and strengthen ties between their countries' armed forces, said Mindef.
"Both militaries will work towards the resumption of bilateral and multilateral engagements and exercises when the Covid-19 situation improves," added the statement.
The ministers also discussed common security challenges, in particular, terrorism, cyber security and maritime security. They talked about dealing with these transnational threats by cooperating with other countries in regional multilateral platforms, such as the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) and the ADMM-Plus, which involves the 10 Asean states and eight dialogue partners.
A multilateral Counter-Terrorism Information Facility based in Singapore is also an important regional initiative to provide timely and actionable intelligence for countries involved, said Mindef.
On the FPDA, Dr Ng and Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri, who is also Senior Minister (Security Cluster), affirmed their strong support for the regional security pact established in 1971 after Britain decided to withdraw most of its military forces from the east of the Suez Canal.
The last Exercise Bersama Lima was held in October 2019. It was hosted by Malaysia and involved about 3,000 military personnel from the five FPDA countries.
The 17-day exercise involved training drills in conventional warfare and maritime counter-terrorism, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
At Tuesday's meeting, Dr Ng also invited Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri to attend the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue in June and at the same time, conduct his introductory visit to Singapore as Defence Minister, said Mindef.
It added that both countries' defence establishments interact regularly across a wide range of activities, such as visits and exchanges, and cross-attendance of courses.
"These interactions strengthen mutual understanding and professional ties among the personnel of both defence establishments."