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Singapore-U.S. Relations Strong, Getting Stronger, Cohen Says

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, Oct. 5, 1999 – Defense Secretary William Cohen said he counts Singapore among the United States' strongest allies in Southeast Asia and looks forward to even stronger relations in the next millennium.

Here in conjunction with a nine-day swing through the Asia- Pacific region, Cohen met Oct. 2 with Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan. Cohen said they discussed East Timor and the upcoming presidential election in Indonesia, the need for countries in the region to cooperate more during humanitarian operations, and the importance of the Changi Port expansion to the U.S. naval presence in the region.

While here, Cohen visited Changi, where land is being reclaimed to push the port further out to sea. Once completed, a new pier will accommodate large ships, including American aircraft carriers.

"This is a sign of the strength and scope of our security partnership," Cohen said of the port expansion. "The United States is grateful for Singapore's support."

Cohen said American forces would visit Singapore as frequently as possible in the future. The new port will help DoD maintain its current 100,000-troop presence in Asia, which is vital to regional stability, security and, ultimately, prosperity, he said.

The secretaries also discussed ways to enhance regional military cooperation in dealing with environmental catastrophes and other humanitarian operations. The East Timor crisis, the Taiwan earthquake and the nuclear power accident in Japan are examples of situations where greater regional or multilateral cooperation could be helpful, he said.

Cohen suggested setting up a mechanism whereby defense ministries and national defense universities share information in developing procedures for peacekeeping, humanitarian missions and other military engagements.

Cohen said Singapore sends perhaps the largest number of foreign military forces training in the United States today, and he looks forward to sending more U.S. service members to Singapore for training.

"We have many of your pilots who trained in the United States, and we are looking forward to many of our sailors enjoying port visits and sharing information," he told a local reporter. He said efforts to improve interoperability of U.S. and Singaporean military equipment and greater training opportunities will help create seamless operations between the two countries.

"When we train together effectively, both countries benefit," he said. "We are looking forward to a very strong, beneficial relationship in the future as well."

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