Singapore, US officials discuss strengthening defence ties

US Acting Undersecretary of Defence for Policy James Anderson calling on Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at Mindef yesterday. Dr Anderson also visited RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base and Sembawang Air Base. PHOTO: MINDEF
US Acting Undersecretary of Defence for Policy James Anderson calling on Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at Mindef yesterday. Dr Anderson also visited RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base and Sembawang Air Base. PHOTO: MINDEF

Top defence officials from Singapore and the United States have met here for a regular high-level security dialogue aimed at strengthening defence relations between the two countries.

Permanent Secretary for Defence Chan Heng Kee and visiting US Acting Undersecretary of Defence for Policy James Anderson jointly chaired the 11th Singapore-US Strategic Security Policy Dialogue (SSPD) at the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) yesterday.

Mr Chan and Dr Anderson reaffirmed the excellent and longstanding bilateral defence relationship, and discussed opportunities to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation under the ambit of a 1990 memorandum of understanding (MOU) that allows the US to use military facilities in Singapore, Mindef said in a statement.

The two sides also discussed opportunities to work together in areas such as defence technology and non-conventional security domains such as counter-terrorism, the ministry added.

Prior to the dialogue, Dr Anderson called on Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Chief of Defence Force Melvyn Ong.

He also visited RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base and Sembawang Air Base, where he took a familiarisation flight on board a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Super Puma helicopter.

He also visited the Information Fusion Centre (IFC) in Changi, which he said was "a very clear example of the power of cooperation among like-minded nations as they share vital information in the maritime domain".

The IFC is an info-sharing hub with links to 97 other centres in 41 countries.

Dr Anderson told The Straits Times in an interview that the US and Singapore share "much common ground when it comes to the numerous security challenges facing the region", and that the bilateral relationship has progressed significantly over the past year.

Last September, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and US President Donald Trump renewed the 1990 MOU in New York, extending the key defence pact by another 15 years to 2035.

Dr Anderson also pointed to the US government's approval of the sale of up to a dozen F-35B stealth fighter jets to Singapore in January, and the two countries' agreement last December - inked by Dr Ng and US Defence Secretary Mark Esper - to set up an RSAF fighter training detachment in the US territory of Guam by 2029.

 
 

"Singapore continues to anchor the US military presence in South-east Asia, and we look forward to continue to engage on future US force posture discussions," he said.

"These discussions very much reflect the deep and significant defence collaboration between our two countries, and we are most grateful that Singapore provides us access to this region of the world."

The SSPD is the highest-level institutionalised security platform between both countries' defence establishments. Both sides interact regularly through military-to-military exchanges, training and cross-attendance of courses, and defence technology cooperation.

The US has also provided longstanding support for the Singapore Armed Forces' overseas training in the US, Mindef added.

At the dialogue, the two sides also exchanged views on regional developments and security cooperation under the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus framework, and reaffirmed the importance of the US' continued engagement of the region.

Mindef said the visitors took relevant health checks and safety measures in the light of Covid-19.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore, US officials discuss strengthening defence ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe