Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Minister for Defence Dr. Ng Eng Hen met today in the Pentagon. Ng is in the United States on his first official visit to Washington as Singapore’s minister for defense. During their meeting, Panetta and Ng discussed a wide range of defense and security issues and reaffirmed the excellent and longstanding bilateral defense relationship between the United States and Singapore.
Panetta and Ng underscored both countries’ shared belief that a strong U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific enhances regional stability and security. Both ministers recognized the value of Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus and the Shangri-La Dialogue as important forums to build the confidence and mutual understanding needed to address regional security challenges. Ng welcomed Panetta’s commitment to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue this year. Panetta and Ng also recognized the importance of practical cooperation among regional militaries, such as through military exercises and exchanges, in complementing the role of dialogue in building trust and confidence in the region.
Panetta and Ng noted the substantial progress made in deepening bilateral defense cooperation since the signing of the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) in 2005. During the meeting, Ng and Panetta discussed the proposal for the United States to forward deploy up to four littoral combat ships (LCS) to Singapore. The LCS will be deployed on a rotational basis and will not be based in Singapore. The deployment of the LCS signals the U.S. commitment to the region and enhances its ability to train and engage with regional partners.
Panetta and Ng also agreed to increase the complexity of existing bilateral exercises, such as Exercise Commando Sling, to enhance interoperability and promote greater cooperation between both armed forces. Additionally, the United States and Singapore will enhance joint urban training opportunities through the use of Singapore facilities such as the Murai Urban Training Facility. The United States and Singapore will continue to explore additional joint initiatives to further operationalize the SFA and facilitate the U.S. engagement in the region.
In closing, Ng expressed appreciation for the U.S. support of Republic of Singapore training detachments in the United States. Panetta expressed gratitude for Singapore’s important contributions to stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and the international counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden.