Last week, Singapore and New Zealand held the latest iteration of a defense ministers’ meeting between their two countries. The interaction highlighted the ongoing defense activity within the bilateral relationship amid wider domestic and regional developments.
As I have observed previously in these pages, Singapore and New Zealand have a defense relationship that dates back decades, with both joining the Five Power Defense Arrangement (FPDA) back in 1971 along with the United Kingdom, Australia, and Malaysia. New Zealand also serves as one of several partner countries where Singapore sends its military for training opportunities. Over the past few years, the scope of bilateral defense cooperation between the countries has expanded in some areas, including dialogues, education, and training, in spite of occasional challenges, with a case in point being inroads regarding training facilities.
That has continued on into 2019 as well. For instance, back in May, in a notable step, defense ties were part of a wider upgrading of relations between the two countries with the official launching of a New Zealand-Singapore Enhanced Partnership, which boosted ties in various areas across the security, economic, and people-to-people domains.
One of the notable developments on the defense side of the relationship has been the Singapore-New Zealand Defense Ministers’ Meeting (SMZDMM). The inaugural SMZDMM was held in 2017, and the second one was held in March 2018 in Auckland.
This week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the holding of the third iteration of the SNZDMM. The SNZDMM was held at Singapore’s defense ministry and it was co-chaired by Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen and New Zealand’s Defense Minister Ron Mark.
According to a joint statement released following the SNZDMM, both sides discussed a range of items related to their ongoing defense cooperation as well as other international and regional security issues of mutual concern, including countering terrorism and the importance of a rules-based international order.
Apart from the SNZDMM, Mark’s visit to Singapore, which lasted from November 13 to November 16, also included a series of other interactions. Per Singapore’s defense ministry, Mark held meetings with other Singapore officials as well, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. He also visited several Singapore defense facilities, including Dieppe Barracks, the Information Fusion Center in RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base, and Sembawang Air Base where he took a familiarization flight on board a Republic of Singapore Air Force Super Puma helicopter.