China and Singapore are set to hold a bilateral military exercise this weekend, the Southeast Asian state’s defense ministry confirmed on September 9.
The Republic of Singapore Navy’s (RSN) Formidable-class frigate RSS Steadfast will conduct a bilateral exercise with the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLA-N) Jiangkai II-class frigate Jingzhou, Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF) said. The exercise is the second conducted between the RSN and PLAN since Exercise Maritime Cooperation was held in May 2015.
According to The Straits Times, the drill will last half a day and involve communication drills and maneuvering exercises, with more than 200 personnel from both sides taking part. MINDEF said that the exercise “advances the progress in practical cooperation” between the two navies.
The two navies will also practice using the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) – a series of protocols for the safety of naval vessels reached in 2014 at the Western Pacific Naval Symposium. As I have indicated previously, the expansion of CUES has been touted by Singapore, the United States, and others as one of a series of interim steps to defuse tensions in the South China Sea. Singapore is also currently the country coordinator for the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership, which marks its 25th year.
Ahead of the exercise, the RSS Steadfast had arrived at the Yangzijiang Naval Jetty in Shanghai on Thursday from the multinational Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise off Hawaii for a range of activities. These included an exchange of ship visits by naval personnel, a reception for PLA(N) personnel on board the ship, and meetings between RSN Fleet Commander Colonel Cheong Kwok Chien with a number of Chinese naval officials.
“The RSN cherishes the continued opportunities to call on the PLA(N) and exercise together,” Cheong said of the interactions. On a professional and personal level, we hope to continue our friendship and trust, to build a strong foundation for greater interoperability. I look forward to more meaningful collaboration between our navies,” he added.
Following the exercise, the RSS Steadfast will return back to Singapore later this month, ending its three-month deployment.