SINGAPORE: Singapore and China on Sunday (Oct 20) signed an updated defence agreement to scale up bilateral military exercises, provide mutual logistics support and establish regular dialogues between their defence ministers.
The enhanced Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Cooperation (ADESC) formalises activities between Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), including port calls, bilateral exercises, mutual visits and cross-attendance of courses, MINDEF said in a news release on Sunday.
The countries had agreed to sign the enhanced ADESC in May when Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen formally met his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe at the MINDEF building ahead of the latter’s participation in the Shangri-La Dialogue.
At the time, Dr Ng said the agreement was not meant to be a “bellwether of anything” amid the climate of US-China tensions, adding that Singapore wants good relations with all countries and together with China “has shared perspectives for a stable and inclusive region, especially for security matters”.
In Beijing on Sunday, Dr Ng signed the agreement with General Wei in a move that MINDEF said reaffirms the countries’ “warm and close friendship”, reflecting “significant progress” in their defence relationship over the past decade and their commitment to strengthen it.
Dr Ng is in China from Oct 17 to 22 having called on Chinese President Xi Jinping and attended the Military World Games in Wuhan on Friday. He will also give a speech at the Beijing Xiangshan Forum on Tuesday.
In addition to formalising ongoing defence activities between Singapore and China, the enhanced ADESC includes these new areas of cooperation:
- Commitment to regularise and scale up bilateral exercises and interactions across the Army, Navy and Air Force
- Setting up of a Visiting Forces Agreement for troops participating in bilateral exercises
- Setting up of a mutual logistics support arrangement with China
- Establishment of a regular Singapore-China ministerial-level dialogue and continued high-level cross-attendance at multilateral conferences and dialogues, such as Singapore’s Shangri-La Dialogue and the Beijing Xiangshan Forum
- Establishment of a bilateral hotline
- Conduct of exchanges among military academies and think-tanks
“Beyond bilateral cooperation, Singapore and China also reaffirmed both countries’ commitment to cooperating closely on multilateral platforms in the enhanced ADESC, including the ADMM (ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting)-Plus and the Experts’ Working Group exercises, the ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise and Exercise Coordinated Response,” MINDEF said.
The ADMM-Plus includes Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the US.
In a call earlier on Sunday, MINDEF said Dr Ng and General Wei discussed “substantive proposals” to expand bilateral defence cooperation, including the scaling up and institutionalising of Exercise Cooperation and Exercise Maritime Cooperation, as well as a new Memorandum of Understanding on academic exchanges between SAFTI Military Institute and the PLA Academy of Military Sciences.
Exercise Cooperation is the countries’ flagship army exercise which started in 2009. The fourth edition held in Singapore in July involved about 240 personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces’ 3rd Singapore Division and 1st Commando Battalion, as well as PLA’s Southern Theater Command Army 74th Army Group.
The ministers also discussed ways to strengthen ASEAN-China defence cooperation, MINDEF said, adding that they look forward to the conduct of Exercise Cooperation and Exercise Maritime Cooperation, as well as joint performances by Singapore's Music and Drama Company and the PLA Performing Arts Troupe to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Singapore-China diplomatic relations next year.
The ADESC was first signed by then-Permanent Secretary for Defence Chiang Chie Foo and then-PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Ma Xiaotian in 2008 to formalise ongoing defence cooperation between the two countries and provide a framework for developing a bilateral defence partnership.