Last week, Singapore’s defense minister paid a visit to Brunei. While the three-day trip was itself a routine and prearranged development, the latest high-level defense engagement between the two sides once again put the spotlight on the ongoing security collaboration between the two countries amid wider domestic and regional developments.
As I have observed previously in these pages, Singapore and Brunei have a close defense relationship as part of their broader bilateral relationship. This is reflected not just in traditional aspects like exchanges, visits, and exercises, but also the fact that Brunei has benefited from the expertise of the Singapore Armed Forces, while Singapore’s military holds training in Brunei as it does with a range of other partners, including the United States and Australia.
Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the visit of Singapore’s defense minister to Brunei. Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen was on a prearranged working visit to Brunei, which constituted the latest high-level defense interaction between the two Southeast Asian states. In addition to Ng, Singapore’s navy chief Lew Chuen Hong was also in Brunei as well.
Ng’s visit consisted of a series of interactions. Ng met with a range of officials, including the second minister of defense, the commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, the permanent secretary of the defense ministry, and Brunei’s head of state, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who also holds the defense minister portfolio.
Per Brunei’s defense ministry (MINDEF Brunei), during the meetings, both sides reaffirmed their longstanding defense ties and discussed aspects of collaboration, expressing satisfaction with the close bilateral relationship that had developed between the two countries. Unsurprisingly, no further specifics were publicly disclosed about specific initiatives or areas of cooperation that were discussed in those private deliberations.
In addition to those meetings, Ng’s visit consisted of other engagements as well. For instance, Ng also visited Exercise Pelican on November 6 together with Brunei’s second minister of defense as both sides marked the 40th anniversary of the exercise. Per MINDEF Brunei, after being airlifted from the Air Movement Center of the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAF) via the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Super Puma Helicopter, Ng witnessed unmanned aerial vehicle operations and over the horizon targeting exercise conducted among participating ships led by the RSS Tenacious. He also boarded KDB Darussalam and oversaw the tactical firing exercise.