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Regional military cooperation key to meeting security challenges: Chan Chun Sing

In his keynote address at a conference for military officers, the Second Minister for Defence cited disaster relief efforts and counter-terrorism as two areas that would benefit from regional military cooperation.  

SINGAPORE: Military forces in the Asia-Pacific region can work together on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, said Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing in his keynote address at the start of a five-day conference for military officers on Tuesday (5 Aug).

Singapore's proposal to set up a Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Coordination Centre -  first mooted by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in April this year - reflects its commitment to play its part, said Mr Chan. This centre, which will be set up at Changi Naval Base, is expected to strengthen humanitarian and disaster relief efforts in the region.

Counter-terrorism is another area that would benefit from regional cooperation, said Mr Chan. Apart from information-sharing, it is important that countries do not let terrorists exploit gaps in bilateral cooperation for their own benefit, he stressed.

Globalisation and rapid economic development also bring a new set of challenges, including competition for resources, and issues related to jobs and income inequality. All these factors provide fertile ground for security issues to emerge, said Mr Chan.

He also raised the 4 Rs - race, religion, resources and rights. In countries that are not doing well, governments face increasing domestic political pressure to protect their markets. When income inequality widens within a society, there  there will always be racial and perhaps even religious undertones.

"For many countries, the main goal has always been not to overlay race and religious faultlines over socio-economic fault lines. But unfortunately, for many countries in the region, the socio-economic faultlines overlay the racial and religious faultlines. This is a dangerous combination," he said.

"Going forward, there will be other challenges - from cybersecurity to securing our lines of communication, to the physical security of our trade routes, our lines of supply and so forth. If you look at the geography of Southeast Asia, there is no better place than here to start, talking about regional cooperation to collectively secure our lines of communication."

Associate Professor Ralf Emmers, Associate Dean at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said that the role of the military has continued to evolve as technology develops and the nature of threats change. "During the 20th century, the threat was predominantly inter-state conflict. It looks like in the 21st century, we're looking at transnational threats, terrorism and other forms of transnational activities as a predominant threat."

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