Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Minister for Defence Dr. Ng Eng Hen met today in Singapore, which also marks Secretary Panetta’s first attendance at the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD).
During their meeting, Secretary Panetta and Minister Ng discussed a wide range of regional security and defense issues. Minister Ng welcomed the United States' strong participation in regional forums like the SLD and ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), which facilitate open dialogue and help to build mutual confidence and understanding.
Secretary Panetta and Minister Ng both noted the important role the ADMM-Plus plays in strengthening practical cooperation among the militaries of the ADMM-Plus members through exercises and exchanges. These interactions promote greater understanding, build confidence and help to bring about stable military-to-military relations among the key stakeholders in the region. Secretary Panetta reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to continue enhancing its engagement of regional countries and work closely with partners like Singapore in strengthening regional peace and stability.
Secretary Panetta and Minister Ng also affirmed the close and longstanding bilateral defense relationship between the United States and Singapore, and the shared strategic perspectives between both sides. They welcomed the good progress made in deepening bilateral defense cooperation since the signing of the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) in 2005. In this regard, Minister Ng conveyed Singapore’s in-principle agreement to the U.S. request to forward deploy up to four Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to Singapore on a rotational basis. Minister Ng and Secretary Panetta noted that both navies will work together to finalize the deployment details and arrangements. The LCS will not be based or homeported in Singapore, and the LCS crew will live on board the LCS for the duration of their deployment. Secretary Panetta reaffirmed that the LCS deployment would strengthen U.S. engagement in the region, through the port calls at regional ports, and engagement of regional navies through activities such as exercises and exchanges.
Secretary Panetta and Minister Ng also affirmed both countries’ commitment to continue exploring joint initiatives to further operationalize the SFA and facilitate U.S. engagement in the region. They noted that the United States and Singapore were working toward increasing the complexity of existing bilateral exercises, such as the incorporation of Navy elements into Exercise Commando Sling, currently a bilateral Air Force exercise. This modification would enhance interoperability across the military services of both countries. Both sides were also working toward enhancing joint training opportunities, including through the use of the Murai Urban Training Facility in Singapore for more regular joint training by the U.S. Marines and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) from 2013 onward.
Finally, Minister Ng thanked Secretary Panetta for U.S. support of the SAF’s training detachments in the United States, while Secretary Panetta expressed appreciation for Singapore's useful contributions to Afghanistan and the international counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden.