US defence chief Lloyd Austin and Ng Eng Hen reaffirm defence ties

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin at Mindef headquarters on July 27, 2021. PHOTO: NG ENG HEN/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Singapore on Tuesday (July 27), as both leaders reaffirmed defence ties and expressed hope for further cooperation in areas such as cyber defence and strategic communications.

The Ministry of Defence said Dr Ng and Mr Austin reaffirmed the excellent and longstanding bilateral defence relations during their meeting, and expressed satisfaction that military cooperation continued to be strong despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

They also exchanged views on geopolitical developments and regional security issues, and agreed on the importance of the United States' continued engagement in the region.

Mr Austin, a retired four-star general, is on his introductory visit to Singapore from Monday to Wednesday, as part of the first trip to South-east Asia by a top member of US President Joe Biden's administration.

He will visit Vietnam and the Philippines after his Singapore trip, before heading back to Washington.

He is scheduled to deliver a speech titled The Imperative Of Partnership at The Fullerton Hotel later on Tuesday. He is expected to talk about how the US is working with its network of allies and partners to modernise capabilities, among other things.

Mr Austin, who took office in January, called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday as part of his visit. He was due to lead a delegation last month to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, but the event was cancelled.

Dr Ng and Mr Austin highlighted new and growing areas of cooperation in the bilateral defence relationship in a joint statement issued after their meeting at Mindef headquarters in Bukit Gombak.

These include Singapore's establishment of the multilateral Counter-Terrorism Information Facility, of which the US is a partner nation.

Singapore also joined the multinational Artificial Intelligence Partnership for Defence in May, which aims to enable multilateral cooperation and exchange of best practices on responsible AI in the defence sector, added the joint statement.

"Secretary Austin and Dr Ng expressed hope for further cooperation, including in areas such as cyber defence, strategic communications and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," it added.

The leaders looked forward to the continued resumption of physical interactions between the two defence establishments, after recent bilateral exercises such as Pacific Griffin in the waters off Guam which ended earlier this month.

Mr Austin said the US Department of Defence values Singapore's training presence in the US, and both sides looked forward to new high-end bilateral training opportunities, as well as future cooperation as the US hosts Singapore's future F-35B fighter aircraft detachment.

Dr Ng thanked Mr Austin for the US' strong support in facilitating Singapore's overseas training and exercises, which helps the Republic overcome its space constraints, added the statement.

US Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday also called on Dr Ng on Tuesday. They discussed regional security developments and initiatives to continue strengthening mutual cooperation between the two navies.

Admiral Gilday is in Singapore from Monday to Thursday for his introductory visit.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen with US Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday. PHOTO: MINDEF

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