SINGAPORE - Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command (Pacom), received a prestigious military award from Singapore on Tuesday (Oct 17), as he applauded Singapore's "significant leadership in this very challenging region".
Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen presented the Pingat Jasa Gemilang (Tentera), or Meritorious Service Medal (Military), to Adm Harris at an investiture ceremony held at the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).
On receiving the award, Adm Harris said, "I'm deeply honoured to receive this prestigious award, but what I believe is more noteworthy is the significant leadership by Singapore in this very challenging region.
"The partnership between Singapore and the US supports fundamentally the rule of law which, in turn, enables the region's prosperity and stability."
A statement from Mindef said Adm Harris was conferred the award for his significant contributions toward enhancing the longstanding and excellent defence relations between the United States and Singapore.
It added that under the admiral's watch, Pacom and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) have made significant progress on initiatives under the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement and the 2015 enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement.
These include the US Navy's rotational deployments of P-8 Poseidon aircraft to Singapore since 2015, as well as the continued rotational deployments of the US Navy's Littoral Combat Ships.
"With Adm Harris' guidance, our armed forces have established bilateral collaboration in non-conventional security areas, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cyber defence and biosecurity," said Mindef.
It added that Adm Harris also oversaw the launch of new high-end bilateral training opportunities between both sides, such as the inaugural bilateral naval exercise Pacific Griffin in Guam.
Held from Aug 19 to Sept 2, the exercise allowed the Singapore Navy to conduct high-end exercises of substantial complexity in the vast waters of Guam.
Mindef said Adm Harris has also been a steadfast advocate for a strong regional security architecture, citing how Pacom has made important contributions to the activities and exercises held under the ambit of the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus Experts' Working Groups.
Adm Harris said the SAF's pursuit of more bilateral activities and complex training opportunities with Pacom is what made many of these inaugural events achievable.
"This award is less about one individual and more about recognising the deepening relationship between our militaries and our countries," he added.
Adm Harris, who is in Singapore from Tuesday to Wednesday, also called on Dr Ng, Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Perry Lim, and inspected a Guard of Honour contingent at Mindef prior to the investiture.
Adm Harris is known for his vocal views on China's activities in constructing artificial islands and installing military equipment on them in the disputed South China Sea, which sees overlapping territorial claims from Beijing, Taiwain, and four Asean nations.
His criticism of China reportedly triggered requests by Beijing to the US government to cut short his term at Pacom, which began in May 2015.