The statements were made on August 31st during a phone call between Mr. Mark Esper and his Singapore counterpart Ng Eng Hen.
The Singapore Defense Ministry’s statement said Esper and Ng discussed a new set of geopolitical developments in the region, the need to sustain bilateral cooperation initiatives. The issue of the South China Sea, ensuring the free and open Indo-Pacific region was also mentioned in the telephone, according to the Pentagon.
The Singapore Department of Defense has used the word “extensive” to describe defense relations between the US and Singapore. In addition to cross-country military training and exchanges, Singapore and the US also conduct defense technology collaborations.
The US currently maintains a “logistics” base at Singapore’s Changi port, allowing US naval warships to reach hotspots in the South China Sea quickly. According to the Pentagon, Mr. Esper expressed his appreciation by telephone for Singapore’s continued support of US forces in the region.
In September last year, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hien Long and US President Donald Trump extended the 1990 Memorandum, in which the US military will use some of Singapore’s bases for another 15 years.
Three months later, Minister Esper and Minister Ng signed a memorandum of understanding allowing the F-15 and F-16 squadrons of Singapore to train at the Anderson base on Guam.
The conversation between the two ministers came in the context of the US seeking to strengthen cooperation with the Asia-Pacific countries in their efforts to deal with China.
Last week, Mr. Esper made a historic visit to Palau, the island nation is located near Guam and the Chinese navy’s ocean line. The US defense minister then met with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono in Guam to discuss missile defense in the region.
Before the trip, Mr. Esper had an editorial strongly criticizing the Chinese military and pledged to continue to cooperate with allies and partners in dealing with China. The head of the Pentagon also called for the “burdens” shared by allies and partners in the region.
Singapore asserted to the US: Not to choose sides in the South China Sea
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in a phone call with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo said that the island nation did not choose sides in the South China Sea issue, but favored freedom of movement and dispute resolution under international law.