S'pore & US reaffirm 'excellent' defence ties; agree on continued US' engagement in region

Singapore is first stop for Austin's inaugural Southeast Asia trip.

Jean Chien Tay | July 27, 2021, 06:03 PM

Singapore and the United States have reaffirmed the excellent and long-standing bilateral defence relationship between both countries.

U.S.' continued engagement in region is critical

According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) on Tuesday, July 27, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen and the U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin agreed on the importance of the U.S.' continued engagement in the region.

They exchanged views on geopolitical developments and regional security issues as well.

This is Austin's inaugural visit to Singapore since taking office in January, and the first trip to Southeast Asia by a member of U.S. President Joe Biden's cabinet.

Singapore is the first stop of his visit.

He also met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the morning, and is scheduled to speak in a lecture in the evening, which will be on the U.S.' role as "a reliable partner" to nations in the Indo-Pacific region.

Commitment to strengthen defence cooperation

In a joint statement, both countries also reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen defence cooperation.

Underlying their strong defence relations is the 2019 renewal of the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Regarding United States Use of Facilities in Singapore, as well as the MOU for the establishment of a Republic of Singapore Air Force Fighter Training Detachment in Guam. 

Austin stressed that the U.S.' defence department values Singapore's training presence inside the U.S., and that both him and Ng look forward to new high-end bilateral training opportunities as the U.S. hosts Singapore's future F35B fighter aircraft detachment.

Austin also thanked Singapore for providing logistical support to U.S. military aircraft and vessels, as well as for facilitating the regular rotational deployment of U.S. combat ships and aircrafts.

"This support is anchored on the shared belief that the United States’ presence in the region is vital for its peace, prosperity, and stability," the statement read.

Both reaffirm importance of maintaining a "rules-based order"

Meanwhile, Ng thanked Austin for the U.S.' "strong support" in facilitating Singapore's training and exercises overseas, which helps to overcome its space constraints.

In a Facebook post in which he expressed his "deep thanks" to Austin for his "personal commitment" to the U.S.' defence relations with Singapore, Ng said both countries will cooperate further in areas such as Artificial Intelligence Partnership for Defence, cyber defence, strategic communications, and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.

Additionally, Ng and Austin agreed on the importance of "sustaining a rules-based order", according to the joint statement. 

Austin stressed this in a tweet on his visit, and said both countries will continue to modernise their defence partnership and "work together to prepare for emerging challenges".

Austin's Southeast Asia trip is said to be part of the Biden administration's efforts to counter China.

He is set to visit Vietnam and the Philippines next.


Top image via Ng Eng Hen/Facebook