Last week, Australia’s new defense chief paid his first visit to Singapore in his current capacity. The development put the focus on the ongoing defense relationship between the two Asian states, amid wider domestic and regional changes at play and a series of upcoming events within bilateral ties more specifically.
As I have noted before in these pages, Australia and Singapore have long maintained a security relationship as part of their wider ties, which were elevated to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership back in 2013. Beyond the usual components of this aspect of relations such as exchanges and exercises, both countries are longstanding members of the Five Power Defense Arrangements (FPDA) — the oldest standing multilateral security agreement of its kind in the region — and Australia is among the key places where the Singapore military has conducted overseas training, which it considers critical for its development.
Over the past few years, the relationship has deepened still further despite lingering challenges. Notable developments have included not just the expansion of Singapore military facilities in Australia, which has occupied the lion’s share of the headlines, but also other significant developments within defense ties such as the upgrading of existing military exercises and exchanges and the launch of new a new dialogue on regional and security issues.
Last week, the defense relationship was in the headlines again with the first visit of Australia’s defense chief to Singapore in his current capacity. Angus Campbell, the chief of the Australian Defense Force, was in the Southeast Asian state for a trip that lasted from February 20 to 22.
Campbell’s trip included a series of interactions. In terms of meetings, he met with officials including Chief of Defense Force Melvyn Ong and Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen. Per Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), the meeting between Campbell and Ng focused on evaluating the state of bilateral ties, including developments such as the joint development of training areas and advanced training facilities in Queensland, as well as wider geopolitical and security developments such as the threat of terrorism.
As part of his trip, Campbell also visited a series of defense institutions and viewed some of Singapore’s defense equipment. According to MINDEF, he visited Sembawang Air Base and took a familiarization flight on board a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Super Puma helicopter. He also delivered an address at the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College (GKS CSC)’s Distinguished Speaker’s Dialogue to round out his trip, which focused on the importance of the Australia-Singapore relationship within the broader Indo-Pacific region.