S'pore, China sign defence agreements to boost professional, academic exchanges

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (left) with Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe signing the guest book at the Ministry of Defence on June 9, 2022. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Singapore and China defence establishments signed two agreements on Thursday (June 9) for further cooperation in military education and academic exchanges between their military academies and think-tanks.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe witnessed the signings after the inaugural Singapore-China Defence Ministers' Dialogue held at the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

Co-chaired by Dr Ng and General Wei, the formal meeting is an initiative under the enhanced Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Cooperation, a pact signed in October 2019 to significantly step up bilateral defence cooperation.

The agreements also come under the enhanced pact.

The first agreement, between Mindef and China's defence ministry, is renewed every five years to facilitate the cross-attendance of courses by the Singapore Armed Forces and People's Liberation Army (PLA) officers. It was last signed in 2017.

The second, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on academic cooperation between the Safti Military Institute and the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, allows both institutions to enhance academic exchanges through study visits and Track 1.5 dialogues.

Track 1.5 dialogues involve a mix of government officials and non-governmental experts.

During the two-hour dialogue, both ministers reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen defence cooperation through the resumption and regular conduct of flagship bilateral exercises.

These had been put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

For instance, the last flagship exercise between the Singapore and Chinese armies, Exercise Cooperation, was held in July 2019 in Singapore.

In addition, Dr Ng and Gen Wei, who is also state councillor, discussed global security issues and practical ways to strengthen Asean-China defence exchanges and cooperation under the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus, said Mindef.

The Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Cooperation - first signed in 2008 - also includes continued high-level cross-attendance at multilateral conferences and dialogues, such as Singapore's Shangri-La Dialogue and the Beijing Xiangshan Forum.

Gen Wei hugged Dr Ng when they met at Mindef, where the Chinese minister also inspected a guard of honour.

The Chinese minister is one of the headline speakers at the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue this weekend, where he is expected to talk about China's vision for regional order on Sunday.

His last visit to Singapore was in May 2019, when he attended the last edition of the defence and security conference organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

More than 40 countries are expected to take part in this year's Shangri-La Dialogue, with 37 ministerial-level delegates and more than 30 senior defence officials, as well as academics and business leaders.

Gen Wei will also call on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean during his five-day official visit to Singapore that started on Wednesday.

Mindef said his visit underscores the longstanding warm and friendly bilateral defence relations between the two countries that have deepened and grown over the years.

Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe inspecting a guard of honour with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at Mindef on June 9, 2022. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Thursday's Agreement on the Five-Year Professional Course Exchange was signed by Mindef's Deputy Secretary (Policy) Teo Eng Dih and China's Deputy Chief of the Office for International Military Cooperation of the Central Military Commission, Major-General Song Yanchao.

The MOU was signed by the commandant of the Safti Military Institute, Brigadier-General Chua Jin Kiat, and the vice-president of China's Academy of Military Sciences, Major-General Yao Dangnai.

Safti Military Institute has a similar memorandum of cooperation with the PLA National Defence University, which was first signed in 2016 and extended for five years in 2021.

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