SINGAPORE: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen was conferred France's highest award - Legion of Honour - awarded for both civilian and military merit regardless of citizenship, by French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday (Feb 19) in Paris.
French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly presented Dr Ng with the award at an investiture ceremony held at the Ministry of Armed Forces in Paris, after Dr Ng had reviewed the French Honour Guard.
Past Singaporean recipients include former Chiefs of Defence Force and Service Chiefs, according to a press release by the Singapore defence ministry (MINDEF).
The two ministers had met prior to the ceremony to reaffirm their commitment to strengthening bilateral defence cooperation, as well as discuss security developments of mutual interest, said MINDEF.
In a video of the proceedings posted on Facebook, Dr Ng said: "A warm feeling came over me as the band played Majulah Singapura, followed by La Marseillaise – the French national anthem, at the historic site of Hotel de Brienne, home to the French Ministry of Defence."
In remarks at the ceremony, Dr Ng said the award was a "strong testament to the deep and growing defence and people-to-people ties" between Singapore and France.
Noting that Singapore and France were geographically far apart, Dr Ng said that the "affinity and commitment" between the two are based fundamentally on "shared universal values and a vision for our individual countries and beyond".
"We believe that all our citizens deserve to be happy. Treated fairly and as equals with the freedom to pursue their dreams," he said. "We also believe in the importance of unity and fraternity, where each has a duty to the other, and all have the duty to uphold a nation that is open and inclusive."
He added that Singapore admires the "leading role" that France plays in Europe and globally, and welcomed France's engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.
As part of his two-day programme to Paris, Dr Ng also toured the French aeronautics, space and defence research laboratory ONERA and was briefed on its existing collaboration with MINDEF.
"Dr Ng's visit underscores the strong and broad-based defence relationship between Singapore and France," said MINDEF, adding that both the countries' armed forces and defence establishments have regular high-level interactions.
The ministry also mentioned the Republic of Singapore Air Force's Advanced Jet Training in Cazaux, France - held since 1998 - and the countries' range of bilateral defence technology interactions and exchanges such as the Singapore and France Advanced Research Initiative meetings.
"These wide-ranging interactions have strengthened the friendship and mutual understanding between both countries," said MINDEF.