Ng Eng Hen meets both US & China’s defence chiefs before Shangri-La Dialogue

Both defence leaders are expected to meet on the sidelines of the summit.

Tan Min-Wei | June 10, 2022, 06:25 PM

Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen met with his Chinese and American counterparts on June 9 and 10, as they arrived in Singapore to attend the 19th Shangri-La Dialogue.

Wei receives honour guard

Ng received General Wei Fenghe, China’s Minister of National Defence and member of the Central Military Commission, at the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) on June 9, where he inspected a Guard of Honour.

Ng greeted Wei with a wide smile that can be seen through his mask.

Image via Ng Eng Hen/Facebook

Ng and Wei co-chaired the inaugural Singapore-China Defence Ministers’ Dialogue. They spoke about the resumption and regular conduct of joint exercises between the two militaries that have been put on hold for the two years due to the pandemic, as well as developments in regional security.

Ng and Wei then witnessed the signing of the Agreement on Five Year Professional Course Exchange, which is renewed every five years and facilitates the cross-attendance of academic courses by officers from both militaries.

Ng later posted on his Facebook page that he was glad to meet Wei in person for the first time in three years, and that his visit underscored the two countries’ commitment to strengthening bilateral and regional defence cooperation.

Wei previously spoke with Ng in 2021 via videoconference, and last visited Singapore in person in 2019.

Austin meets Ng on sidelines of conference

The U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Singapore on June 9. He was met on the tarmac by U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Kaplan as well as Brigadier-General Lee Wee Chek, the Singaporean Defence Attache in Singapore's Embassy in Washington D.C.

Austin called on Ng at the Shangri-La Hotel on June 10.

Austin and Ng have met twice in the past year, the first time in July 2021 when Austin made an introductory visit to Singapore and the region after being appointed Secretary of Defense, and again in November 2021 when Ng visited the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

During his visit in July 2021, he was welcomed by an Honour Guard at Mindef.

Austin and Ng reaffirmed the strength of bilateral defence ties, and the “mutually-beneficial partnership between Singapore and the U.S.”

Ng thanked Austin for the U.S. military’s strong support for the Singapore Armed Forces’s training in the U.S., and for assisting the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s acquisition of the F-35B fighter jet.

Austin also reaffirmed U.S.' commitment to the region, and in playing a “strong role in the Asean Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) - Plus”.

He expressed American gratitude for “Singapore’s support for the U.S.’s regional presence, even amongst Covid-19”.

Both affirmed the need for stable defence relations, and for the region to work together for its security and prosperity.

Calling on Ng is an act of professional courtesy, but also highlights how Singapore’s position as a venue for conferences such as the Shangri-La Dialogue allows the country to build stronger relationships with regional powers.

Mirrored visits

Both Wei and Austin are in town for the Shangri-La Dialogue where they are slated to give addresses. They are also expected to meet on the sidelines of the conference to address concerns brought about by escalating tensions between the two major powers.

According to Reuters, defence officials from both sides have already conducted in-person talks on June 10 -- their first since the start of the Biden administration, with the goal of ensuring that tensions don't spill over into military misunderstandings or miscommunication.

Top image via Singapore Ministry of Defence/Facebook and @SecDef/Twitter