S'pore to step up defence relations with China: Ng Eng Hen

S'pore to step up defence relations with China: Ng Eng Hen
Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen signing the guest book on the Chinese navy’s newest missile corvette Fushun. With him are the warship’s commander Zhao Yongxin (extreme right) and the North Sea Fleet’s chief of staff Rear-Admiral Wei Gang (extreme left).

Singapore will find ways to step up military ties with China, on the back of the mutual confidence both nations have built up over the years, said visiting Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Although Singapore has a small navy, its Chinese counterpart knows that the Republic is a "good friend" and that bilateral relations are strong, Dr Ng said.

"We treasure each other's confidence... and we will continue to find ways to step up defence relations."

He was speaking to reporters yesterday after touring the Qingdao naval base, the headquarters of the People's Liberation Army Navy's North Sea Fleet, on the fourth day of his China trip.

Dr Ng, who was accompanied by senior military officers and defence policy makers, met the northern fleet's chief of staff, Rear-Admiral Wei Gang, and also checked out the Chinese navy's latest missile corvette, Fushun.

The 89m stealth warship, which went operational four months ago, features anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-submarine torpedos, among other weapons.

Noting that the Chinese navy only opens up its newest warship and weapons to "selected guests", Dr Ng said: "It speaks of a PLA Navy that is confident of its abilities and also very professional in its military outlook."

The North Sea Fleet, one of China's three naval fleets, is responsible for the Yellow Sea and coastal areas in north-east China. The fleet has also contributed ships to counter-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

In 2012, Dr Ng visited the South Sea Fleet, which is based in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province.

Rear-Adm Wei said the northern fleet and the Republic of Singapore Navy are "old friends", with sailors and ships involved in multilateral sea drills, and calling at each other's ports. Moving forward, the North Sea Fleet will continue to build "strategic trust" with its Singapore counterpart.

For instance, the fleet is in the midst of selecting the first PLA Navy officer to be positioned in a Singapore-based maritime security watch group, the Information Fusion Centre, which is housed in the Changi Naval Base.

Sino-Singapore military ties have grown over the years since the PLA and the Singapore Armed Forces inked an agreement to formalise bilateral defence activities in 2008.

Last Sunday, both armies wrapped up their biggest joint war games to date, with 140 infantry troops from both sides teaming up to fire their weapons and practise battle manoeuvres.

Tomorrow, Dr Ng will deliver a speech on the Asian Century at the PLA National Defence University in Beijing.

This article was first published on November 12, 2014.
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