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US Defense Secretary Mattis values relationship with Singapore: Ng Eng Hen

Defense Secretary James Mattis values Singapore's views and assessment of the Asia-Pacific region, and indicated that the US wanted to play a "very constructive role", Minister Ng said after meeting with his counterpart for the first time. 

SINGAPORE: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Saturday (Feb 18) met with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis for the first time, saying they had a "very good first meeting". 

The two met on the sidelines of the 53rd Munich Security Conference on Saturday, and both sides reaffirmed the excellent and longstanding bilateral defence relationship, the Ministry of Defence said in its press release.  

In remarks after the meeting, Dr Ng said he was very assured that Mr Mattis knows the region well. The US official met with then Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean when he visited Singapore in 2008. Mr Mattis also met with Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) leaders while he was CENTCOM Commander and leading operations in the Middle East where Singapore had contributed to operations. 

"I was also very reassured of his remarks about security in (the) Asia-Pacific, and especially that he valued (the) defence relationship with Singapore," Dr Ng said.

"He valued our views and our assessment of our region, and (indicated) that the US wanted to play a very constructive role. Secretary Mattis said that he was very open to hear Singapore’s assessment," the minister added.

Dr Ng said he was "very happy" that Mr Mattis, despite his busy schedule at the conference, made time for the meeting. 

"Obviously, as the new Secretary of Defense, many security leaders around the world ask (him) for meetings because he is new and they want a first-hand assessment of the thinking of the US Department of Defense’s directions and leadership under Secretary Mattis. So, I express my appreciation that he made time," said Dr Ng.

He also invited Mr Mattis to the Shangri-La Dialogue, which will take place in June, and the Defense Secretary said he would attend.  

"All in all, (we had) a very good first meeting. One that gives reassurance of stability and progress, and with very steady pair of hands in Secretary Mattis’ leadership. I hope that we have moved things towards a much more predictable and stable environment that we all hope for," Dr Ng said.