Concrete moves to make Sino-S'pore defence ties stronger

Concrete moves to make Sino-S'pore defence ties stronger

Singapore and China have agreed to expand their military ties after defence ministers from both countries met yesterday.

Visiting Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan discussed not only what they wanted to do to broaden bilateral cooperation but also how they would do it.

The steps include the two sides increasing the scope and frequency of joint war drills and widening training scenarios as part of a new move to put in place concrete measures to expand military links.

Specifically, soldiers and sailors from Singapore and China will work more closely together in joint war games that can happen as often as every year.

Both militaries will also work together in areas such as counter- terrorism and maritime security drills, and set up closer links between military academies on both sides.

In a joint statement issued after their hour-long meeting, both sides reached a four-point consensus to deepen mutual understanding and trust through practical cooperation and face-to-face interactions.

Wrapping up his seven-day visit here yesterday, Dr Ng told reporters that the latest move "goes beyond motherhood statements" and reflects the confidence and the goodwill that both sides have for each other.

"One, it lays out the principle that we have mutual regard and respect and try to accommodate each other's security needs for mutual trust," he said.

"Two, substantively how we are going to do it... (with) very concrete programmes that will lead to improved defence ties."

The moves will boost Sino-Singapore military ties, which have grown over the years since the People's Liberation Army and the Singapore Armed Forces inked an agreement to formalise bilateral defence activities in 2008.

Both armies have engaged in three joint exercises, code named Cooperation, in 2009, 2010 and last week. The latest were the biggest war games to date, with the PLA and SAF putting 140 infantry troops through their paces to fire their weapons and practise battle manoeuvres.

The stepped-up military ties come ahead of Singapore and China celebrating 25 years of diplomatic ties next year, which has been largely economic and cultural in nature.

Both sides have launched numerous joint government projects like the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-City.

On its part, the PLA Navy's North Sea Fleet has said it 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.

This article was first published on Nov 15, 2014.
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