Last week, the minister of state at the UK’s defense ministry paid an introductory visit to Brunei. The interaction highlighted the defense relationship between the two countries as well as their ongoing attempts to advance security collaboration between them amid wider domestic and regional developments.
As I have noted before in these pages, the U.K.-Brunei defense relationship is a longstanding one, and it has continued even following the Southeast Asian state’s independence from Britain in 1984. Indeed, Britain still maintains a military presence in Brunei today in one of the few such arrangements it has globally, and both sides continue to maintain close security ties.
Their memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation inked back in 2002 includes visits, exercises, trainings, and education, and manifestations of that have continued on to today as well, amid wider developments, including Brunei’s own efforts to grapple with challenges in its defense policy and Britain’s ongoing effort to expand its engagement with Southeast Asian states across a range of areas.
Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the visit of the minister of state at the UK defense ministry Baroness Annabel Goldie DL. Goldie was in Brunei for a three-day introductory trip to the Southeast Asian state since she assumed her post back in July, which lasted from September 24 to September 26.
Goldie’s visit consisted of a series of interactions. She had an audience with the head of state, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who also holds the defense minister portfolio, with participation from other top Brunei officials as well including the commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and the second minister of defense.
According to the official account of the deliberations by Brunei’s defense ministry (MINDEF), during the audience, both sides discussed the state of their bilateral defense relations as well as broader regional and international developments of mutual interest. MINDEF said that the visit reinforced the significance of the defense relationship.
Beyond those meetings, Goldie’s visit included other interactions as well. For instance, per MINDEF, while in Brunei, Goldie also took the opportunity to make a working visit to British Forces Brunei in Seria.
Unsurprisingly, few additional specifics were publicly disclosed about the content of the private deliberations between the two sides. Nonetheless, such interactions will continue to be important to monitor to assess how both sides are actually making inroads in various aspects of defense collaboration.