SAF to explore further training opportunities in New Zealand: Ng Eng Hen

A Singapore Armed Forces artillery piece conducting a live-fire excercise in Waiouru, New Zealand.
A Singapore Armed Forces artillery piece conducting a live-fire excercise in Waiouru, New Zealand. PHOTO: MINDEF

SINGAPORE - Singapore will explore the possibility of "more training opportunities" for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in New Zealand and deepen its relationship with the country, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday (Jan 16).

He was speaking to the media following a meeting with his counterpart, New Zealand Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee.

"Whether it is the US' new president, Brexit, rising powers like China and India in this part of the world, the status quo has been changed," said Dr Ng.

He added that it was important to strengthen relationships with "like-minded" countries during this "period of uncertainty", noting that New Zealand and Singapore were already cooperating in platforms such as the Five Power Defence Arrangement and the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus.

Mr Brownlee said he hoped the relationship between the two countries would strengthen in the years to come, noting it "was one of the closest military relationships" New Zealand has.

During the meeting, the two defence ministers agreed to initiate an annual formal ministerial meeting and explore further cooperation between the SAF and the New Zealand Defence Force.

They include annual Air Force staff talks, and the establishment of two working groups - an operational working group and one for education and training.

Mr Brownlee said the Royal New Zealand Navy will use Singapore as a port while travelling through the Straits of Malacca.

Dr Ng noted the Royal New Zealand Navy's participation of a naval task group in Singapore for Exercise Bersama Shield - a multilateral exercise involving members of the Five Power Defence Arrangements - as well as the international naval review in April (2017).

Both men also observed Exercise Thunder Warrior at the Waiouru Training Area in New Zealand.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the artillery live-firing exercise, which saw the participation of 500 Singapore soldiers.

Noting that 20 years is a "long time", Dr Ng thanked the government and people of New Zealand for allowing Singapore to train in the country.

Dr Ng noted that the Waiouru training area is more than twice the size of Singapore, which allows the SAF to conduct live-firing of equipment that would be impossible on the island, such as the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer which has a range of 30km.