Singapore's warm ties with China and US

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen greeting Lt-Gen He Lei, vice-president of the People's Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences, at the Shangri-La Dialogue yesterday. Dr Ng and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis on their way to a breakfast meeting
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen greeting Lt-Gen He Lei, vice-president of the People's Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences, at the Shangri-La Dialogue yesterday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen greeting Lt-Gen He Lei, vice-president of the People's Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences, at the Shangri-La Dialogue yesterday. Dr Ng and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis on their way to a breakfast meeting
Dr Ng and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis on their way to a breakfast meeting on the sidelines of the security summit yesterday. Mr Mattis is visiting South-east Asia as Pentagon chief for the first time.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen hosted a ministerial roundtable discussion yesterday, on the second day of the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit. The discussion covered a range of major security challenges facing the region, including the growing global terror threat.

Yesterday also saw Dr Ng warmly greeting Lieutenant-General He Lei, the head of China's team to the dialogue this year. At their meeting a day earlier, Dr Ng and Lt-Gen He reaffirmed their countries' "warm and friendly bilateral defence relationship", the Ministry of Defence said. Among other things, they also agreed to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation further, Mindef added.

The two men acknowledged the importance of China's role in the Asia-Pacific region, and China's involvement in the regional security architecture through platforms such as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Lt-Gen He, who is accompanied at the three-day summit by several senior People's Liberation Army (PLA) officials, is the lowest-level chief delegate from China to attend the summit since 2012. In recent years, the country was represented by an officer of at least the rank of a four-star general. Lt-Gen He is vice-president of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences.

Responding to a question on the arrangement, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said at a regular press briefing that "it is based on China's work requirements, and has nothing to do with China-Singapore relations". It has been reported that the PLA is currently focused on implementing reforms ordered by President Xi Jinping ahead of the Chinese Communist Party's 19th party congress later this year.

Yesterday, Dr Ng also met US Secretary of Defence James Mattis and they reaffirmed their countries' excellent and long-standing bilateral defence relationship, Mindef said.

They also acknowledged the importance of the continued presence of the US in the Asia-Pacific region in ensuring peace and stability. Mr Mattis, who is visiting South-east Asia as Pentagon chief for the first time, called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana yesterday afternoon.

Lee Seok Hwai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 04, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore's warm ties with China and US'. Print Edition | Subscribe