Trans-Pacific View

Strategic Security Dialogue Highlights US-Singapore Defense Relations

The highest-level defense interaction between the two sides spotlighted some of the key issues within their security ties.

Strategic Security Dialogue Highlights US-Singapore Defense Relations
Credit: Facebook/Lee Hsien Loong

Last week, the United States and Singapore held the 10th interaction of a strategic security policy dialogue between them. While the event was one of a long series of interactions held by both sides, it nonetheless reinforced the defense relationship between the two longtime strategic partners.

As I have noted before, the United States and Singapore have long viewed each other as vital strategic partners, and that extends to the security realm as well. The United States is a key supplier of defense technology and facilities for military training for Singapore, while the city-state is a valuable regional partner across a range of issues from counterterrorism to maritime security, while also hosting a U.S. Navy logistics command unit that coordinates regional operations.

The defense relationship has continued to advance under U.S. President Donald Trump as well, amid the mix of opportunities and challenges for bilateral ties. In addition to the fact that the two counties continue to interact regularly through a string of exchanges, exercises, and training opportunities, there have also been newer developments in bilateral security ties as well, be it the establishment of a new naval exercise, Pacific Griffin, or Singapore’s planned purchase of F-35s.

One of the mechanisms in the U.S.-Singapore relationship is the Strategic Security Policy Dialogue (SSPD). Since its establishment in 2006, the SSPD has been viewed as the highest-level institutionalized security platform between both countries’ defense establishments, providing a key platform to set the direction for the U.S.-Singapore defense relationship.

Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the holding of the 10th interaction of the SSPD, a milestone in the establishment of the mechanism. The SSPD was held at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and it was co-chaired by U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood and Singapore Permanent Secretary for Defense Chan Yeng Kit. It came amid other interactions in the bilateral relationship, including the holding of the exercise Valiant Mark from April 11 to April 29.

Per Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), during the SSPD, the two sides discussed prospects to enhance bilateral cooperation in the conventional military domain and the nonconventional security, defense technology, and strategic domains as well as broader regional security developments of common interest.

Beyond the holding of the SSPD, the meeting also provided an opportunity for other interactions between the two sides as well. Chan, who was in Washington, D.C. from April 22 to 24, also met with Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Matthew Pottinger, and other experts and scholars.