US, Singapore continue to boost military ties

Dr Ng Eng Hen meeting US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on Nov 3, 2021. PHOTO: MINDEF

WASHINGTON - Defence cooperation between Singapore and the United States is going very well, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Wednesday (Nov 3), as the US repeated its commitment to continued joint training and other exercises with Singapore.

America and Singapore will work together to continue to set up Singapore's upcoming fighter jet training detachment in the US territory of Guam, which will begin around 2029.

The US will also help Singapore relocate its fleet of F-16 fighter aircraft from Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, to the Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith, Arkansas, a move expected to be completed in June 2023.

The selection of Ebbing, which will also host Singapore's next-generation F-35B fighter jets when they start arriving in 2026, was announced in June.

"We're making preparations," Dr Ng said in an interview with Singapore media on Wednesday, after his meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. "Secretary Lloyd Austin gave his assurance, and we're very thankful for it, that they would lean forward to help us move from Luke."

Dr Ng called the move a good development for the SAF, adding: "It gives us training opportunities for the decade or decades ahead."

Mr Austin, speaking as he welcomed Dr Ng to the Pentagon, said that Singapore and America's partnership remained central to preserving and expanding the region's security and prosperity.

Mr Austin, who visited Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines in July, noted that his trip was one of several high-level meetings to happen in recent months, adding: "All of this underscores how deeply we value our relationships in Southeast Asia and our partnership with Singapore."

"Our countries have stood alongside each other through numerous challenges, and this past year reminded us yet again of the strength of our partnership."

Singapore, he added, has always been a strong, ready and willing partner of the US on global security challenges.

In a statement on Wednesday, the US Department of Defence said that Dr Ng and Mr Austin "agreed to advance a number of initiatives that will ensure the bilateral partnership is postured to address new and emerging challenges".

These include working with Singapore to support the region's recovery from the pandemic, and to strengthen cybersecurity cooperation between the US and Singapore.

They also agreed to facilitate high-end combined training opportunities in the air and sea, and enhance combined force posture operations in the Indo-Pacific, including through rotational US air and naval activities in Singapore, said the Pentagon.

It added that the two leaders reiterated their commitment to supporting the security, stability, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific, and to building an even better cooperation "based on a shared foundation of common interests and values".

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