Asia Defense

Singapore-UK Defense Relations in Focus With New Pact

A recent step is testament to ongoing efforts by both sides to further develop ties in this domain.

Singapore-UK Defense Relations in Focus With New Pact
Credit: Twitter/10DowningStreet

Earlier this week, Singapore and the United Kingdom renewed a key agreement on cooperative research defense between them. The step came amid ongoing efforts by both countries to further develop their defense relationship as part of their wider foreign and defense policies and amid broader regional and global developments.

Following the end of Britain’s era as a colonial power and Singapore’s independence, Singapore and the U.K. have continued to develop a defense relationship that extends across various areas, including military exercises, dialogues, visits, and education and training within the bilateral relationship as well as collaboration through other multilateral groupings, such as the Five Power Defense Arrangements (FPDA).

In recent years the two countries have looked to further develop and deepen their defense ties, looking at areas such as cybersecurity amid broader trends and developments, including Britain’s continuing efforts to step up its presence in the Asia-Pacific post-Brexit and Singapore’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year (See: “A More Muscular Britain in the South China Sea?”). Indeed, just earlier this month, at the recent iteration of the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) in Singapore, Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen and U.K. Secretary of State for Defense Gavin Williamson had signed a renewed Singapore-U.K. Defense Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (DCMOU), which is the foundational document for defense ties.

One of the areas both sides have been working on within their wider defense relationship is cooperative defense research (CDR). The two countries had inked a more specific memorandum of understanding (MOU) on CDR back in 1998 as part of efforts to enhance defense technology cooperation.

On June 27, bilateral ties were in the headlines again when the two sides renewed the MOU on CDR for the next decade. The pact was signed by Chief Defense Scientist Quek Gim Pew and Chief Scientific Adviser to the U.K. Ministry of Defense Hugh Durrant-Whyte, and the signing was witnessed by Permanent Secretary for Defense Development Neo Kian Hong and British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman. The pact came as Singapore hosted the inaugural defense technology summit (Tech Summit), a new gathering that was launched with a welcome address by Ng just a few weeks after the holding of the SLD (See: “Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship: What’s on the Security Agenda?”).

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According to Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), under the MOU, the two sides would look to continue their collaboration in joint research and technology development and testing of defense-related technologies. This would include cooperating more in some priority areas such as logistics management, maritime autonomy, and counterterrorism.