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U.S. Department of Defense

12/06/2019 | News release | Archived content

Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper and Singapore Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen Signing Memorandum of Understanding

SINGAPORE MINISTER FOR DEFENCE NG ENG HEN: Thank you. I think you're supposed to clap here.

(APPLAUSE)

(Laughter.)

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MARK T. ESPER: Well, let me just say a few things. Mr. Minister, thank you again for being here today. It is an honor to sign this memorandum of understanding to establish Singapore's permanent fighter training presence on Guam. This agreement is indicative of the strong bonds between the United States and the Republic of Singapore particularly with respect to our defense cooperation. Today's signing continues the momentum in our growing relationship following the renewal of the 1990 memorandum of understanding by President Trump and Prime Minister Lee in September.

The permanent establishment of a fighter detachment in Guam will further enhance the interoperability of our air forces and provide the training opportunities needed to maximize our readiness. The United States greatly appreciates the support Singapore provides for our forces in the Indo-Pacific. No Southeast Asian nation does more to enable a forward United States presence.

This is especially important during a time when the longstanding international rules-based order is being challenged. Fortunately, many nations in the region, including Singapore, are committed to upholding the rules, norms and values that underpin our mutual security and our prosperity. We saw this last month at the ASEAN Defense Minister's Meeting Plus dialogue in Bangkok as we discussed the importance of protecting the rights of all nations, big and small.

I look forward to our continued work together to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Thank you, once again, Mr. Minister, for your partnership and strong support of the initiative we have signed today.

MINDEF NG: Allow me to say a few words. I want to personally thank Secretary Mark Esper. It's his strong leadership that has allowed two very important events, as he mentioned the signing of the MOU, which is the renewal of MOU that was agreed on in 1990 by our founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, and just last month between current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Trump. It reaffirms Singapore's position that the stability of our region, Asia Indo-Pacific region is - requires influence and presence of the U.S. in our region.

This particularly MOU that we both signed enables us to have training opportunities in Guam, as we also have now in Mountain Home and Luke, and allows the RSAF fighter force to be able to achieve the operational readiness.

I want to thank you very much for all the training opportunities and for allowing us to train, and also for sharing our perspectives on regional defense. And I look forward to deepening our defense ties further, and, again, thank you for these opportunities that this MOU gives us. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

STAFF: And we'll take two questions from each side. For the secretary of defense.

Q: Mr. Secretary, King Salman told President Trump that what happened in Pensacola today is not going to affect U.S.-Saudi relations. Do you think that holds true for the military-to-military relationship?

SEC. ESPER: I think so. We have strong military-to-military ties. That's the key basis of our relationship with the Saudis. We train many, many foreign countries in the United States each and every year. We just discussed the signing of this MOU and what it means for Singapore and many of those foreign officers and persons we train are Saudi. It's been ongoing for many years. So again, I don't see this undermining the deeper relationship we've had with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for decades.

STAFF: We have the next question for Dr. Ng.

Q: Yes, this is Phil Stewart from Reuters. Just a quick question. Do you believe that stability in China - stability in the South China Sea is at greater risk because of the increasingly muscular activities of China? And you said earlier that you thought that U.S. presence in the region was necessary for stability. If I could just ask, if you'd elaborate on that. Why is that true?

MINDEF NG: First, let me offer my condolences, Singapore's condolences to the families of those injured and bereaved from the incident at Pensacola.

The South China Sea is a flashpoint, and we discussed that in very forums, including the recent one we all attended in ASEAN Defense Minister's meeting with plus 8 countries, and it's been a subject for discussion and initiatives for - over the last decade.

So obviously it's - it's potential is there for incidents to occur. That's why the ASEAN Defense Minister's meeting have set up hotlines. We have talked about fora where we can discuss the issues. We talked about deescalating measures, and all this is in response to the recognition that in the South China Sea things can go wrong.

We believe that the U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific Region in ASEAN and the waters around ASEAN is vital for stability and security, as it has been the last 70 years, and even before then. I think it's an accepted fact that the U.S. presence in our region has enabled the region to grow, and it's because of the strategic umbrella of the U.S. that I think the countries around the region have prospered, and because of this stability.

STAFF: We'll take one more question. Bob Burns?

Q: Bob Burns from A.P.

Secretary Esper, I believe in your - excuse my voice - in your statement today regarding what happened in Pensacola, I believe you said something to the effect that you were considering measures that could be taken to ensure security at military bases - U.S. military bases around the country. Can you describe in some way what you had in mind?

SEC. ESPER: What I was able to do through my deputy secretary of defense and then in my ability I spoke directly to the Acting Secretary of Navy was to make sure they reached out to all their installation, garrison, base commanders and that they all took measures appropriate to their situation, because no two are alike if you will, and made proper consideration with regard to the security of the installations, with regard to active fears of any types and other security measures. So that's what I meant by that.

And then secondly, I also talked about our team looking at the measures we have in place to ensure proper vetting and screening of foreign students as they come to our country, to make sure we understand we have a good handle on who they are and that they've been properly screened. So those are a couple of examples of what I was referring to, Bob.

Q: Thank you.

STAFF: Thank you all.

SEC. ESPER: Thank you all very much.