Singapore, US reaffirm bilateral defence relations, agree to renew MOU

Singapore, US reaffirm bilateral defence relations, agree to renew MOU

Acting United States Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan calld on PM Lee Hsien Loong
Acting United States Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana on May 31, 2019. (Photo: MINDEF)

SINGAPORE: Singapore and the United States have agreed to renew a defence Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), as the two countries reaffirmed their bilateral defence ties on Friday (May 31).

Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen hosted Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to breakfast on the sidelines of the 18th Shangri-La Dialogue, during which the two reaffirmed the "excellent and long-standing bilateral defence relations" between Singapore and the United States, according to a Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) news release.

The officials also agreed to update the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the United States Use of Facilities in Singapore, to be renewed by 2020, to incorporate "partnership elements of the US’ national defence strategy recently articulated for this region", according to MINDEF.

Ng Eng Hen hosts Patrick Shanahan to breakfast
Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen hosts a breakfast for US Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan on the sidelines of the 18th Shangri-La Dialogue. (Photo: MINDEF)

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. It has also underpinned the country's regional presence 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," said MINDEF.

Both sides also discussed bilateral initiatives including more training detachments for the Republic of Singapore Air Force at a suitable US military base. 

Mr Shanahan also highlighted the US' intent to remain committed in the region and to work closely with ASEAN, said MINDEF.

READ: Singapore, China to boost defence cooperation, engage in larger military exercises

The two ministers also affirmed the need for stable defence relations between the US and China, particularly as trade tensions increase, as well as the need for countries in the region to work collectively.

Mr Shanahan is in Singapore with a delegation of senior US officials, including US Secretary of Navy Richard Spencer and Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command Admiral Philip Davidson. 

Mr Shanahan also called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana later in the day where they discussed regional security developments and reiterated the importance of the US’ continued engagement of the Asia-Pacific. 

During the meeting, Mr Lee also expressed appreciation for the US’ support for the Singapore Armed Forces’ training in the US. Both sides also supported the renewal of the 1990 MOU for the United States Use of Facilities in Singapore.

Southeast Asian Defence Ministers at Shangri-La Dialogue
Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen, other Southeast Asian defence ministers and their representatives meeting Acting United States Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan on the sidelines of the 18th Shangri-La Dialogue. (Photo: MINDEF) 

REAFFIRMING US COMMITMENT TO SOUTHEAST ASIA

Mr Shanahan also met Southeast Asian defence ministers on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue.

During the informal meeting, Mr Shanahan reaffirmed the US' "strong commitment to the region" and also spoke on the country's key role and strategy in "maintaining an open and inclusive regional security architecture". 

He added that the US would continue to engage the Asia-Pacific, and also continue to play a strong role in the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus. 

The defence ministers "welcomed the US' continued commitment to and engagement of the region", said MINDEF in a release. 

Dr Ng, who also attended the meeting, expressed his strong support for deepening ASEAN’s cooperation with the US and highlighted the US’ key role in addressing regional security challenges. 

In light of terrorist threats, Dr Ng further expressed hope that the US will continue to support regional counter-terrorism efforts. 

The visit comes after Singapore and China on Wednesday also agreed to update a defence agreement that could see them increase the scale of existing military exercises.

The revised Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Cooperation is expected to be signed later this year.

Source: CNA/nc/ad

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