NEW YORK: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and United States President Donald Trump on Monday (Sep 23) signed an agreement to renew the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding Regarding United States’ Use of Facilities in Singapore, extending it for another 15 years.
The two leaders inked the deal during a meeting on the sidelines of the 74th United Nations General Assembly.
The 1990 MOU was signed by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and then-US vice president Dan Quayle, and was key to facilitating US access to Singapore's air and naval bases, as well as providing logistic support for their transiting personnel, aircraft and vessels.
It has also underpinned the US’ security presence in the region for almost 30 years.
Under its ambit, the US has rotationally deployed fighter aircraft for exercises, refuelling and maintenance, as well as littoral combat ships and P-8 Poseidon aircraft to Singapore since 2013 and 2015 respectively.
Singapore’s Defence Ministry (MINDEF) said in a statement that the renewal of the document underscores the support for US’ presence in the Asia-Pacific, which remains vital for regional peace, stability and prosperity.
On renewing the MOU, Mr Lee said during the signing ceremony with Mr Trump that it was a reflection of the close cooperation between the two countries.
"We've updated it once before, in 2005; and we are very happy to update it once more, to extend it for the next 15 years," said Mr Lee.
“It reflects our very good cooperation on defence matters between the US and Singapore, and also the broader cooperation we have in so many other fields, in security, economics, counter-terrorism, and in culture and education as well."
He added: "So we are very happy with our relationship, we hope to grow it, and we hope that it will also be a means for the US to deepen its engagement in Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific region.”
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) added that the renewal of the MOU was a "clear affirmation of the mutual commitment to the longstanding Singapore-United States defence relationship".
MFA added: "Both sides reaffirmed the good progress of key bilateral defence initiatives, and welcomed Singapore’s decision to acquire four F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, with an option for eight more in the future."
In a phone call with US Defence Secretary Mark Esper, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen reaffirmed the excellent and long-standing bilateral defence relationship, as well as the importance the US’ continued engagement of the region.
Dr Ng also thanked Mr Esper for the continued support the Singapore Armed Forces receives for training in the US. And Mr Esper also expressed appreciation for Singapore’s enduring support for the US’ regional presence.
During the call, both parties also discussed the good progress of ongoing initiatives in defence technology and military cooperation.
Dr Ng is in New York as part of Mr Lee’s delegation at the United Nations General Assembly.
This is the fourth time Mr Lee and Mr Trump have met. Both leaders met at the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore last year; the G20 Summit in Hamburg in 2017; and during Mr Lee’s official visit to Washington in 2017.
MINDEF added that the 1990 MOU is one of several bilateral defence agreements with the US.
In 2005, Mr Lee and former US president George W Bush inked the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement for a Closer Cooperation Partnership in Defence and Security (SFA) - which elevated bilateral defence relations, and recognised Singapore as a Major Security Cooperation Partner of the US.
Both countries also concluded the enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement in 2015, which built on the 2005 SFA to deepen cooperation in five areas - namely military, policy, strategic, technology, and non-conventional security challenges.
The two countries also agreed to strengthen cooperation in new areas like humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, cyber defence, biosecurity and public communications.