Trans-Pacific View | Security | Southeast Asia

Pacific Fleet Commander Introductory Visit Puts US-Singapore Naval Relations into Focus

The interaction spotlighted the ongoing activity in the naval aspect of the bilateral defense relationship.

Prashanth Parameswaran
Pacific Fleet Commander Introductory Visit Puts US-Singapore Naval Relations into Focus

A photo from the recent renewal of a U.S.-Singapore military facilities agreement, a key development for the bilateral defense relationship.

Credit: MINDEF Singapore

Last week, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander paid his introductory visit to Singapore in his current position. The trip highlighted continuing efforts by the two countries to deepen their collaboration on the security side in general and with respect to the naval domain more specifically.

The United States and Singapore have long had a defense relationship as part of what is officially termed as a strategic partnership, which also includes close ties between the U.S. Navy and the Republic of Singapore Navy. 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.

That has continued on into 2019 as well. From late September to early October, for instance, the two countries carried out a naval sinking exercise as part of the latest iteration of Pacific Griffin, a new, complex, high-end naval exercise held between them and the first of its kind held outside of Singapore, featuring a full spectrum of naval operations from anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare to air defense, live fire drills, and tactical ship maneuvers.

Last week, the naval aspect of the relationship was in the spotlight again with the introductory visit of the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander. John Aquilino, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (US PACFLT), was in Singapore for what constituted his first trip to the Southeast Asian state in his current capacity.

Aquilino’s visit to Singapore, which lasted from October 24 to October 26, consisted of a series of interactions. In terms of meetings, he met with a range of top Singapore officials including Chief of Defense Force Melvyn Ong and Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen. Per the official account of the meeting between Aquilino and Ng by Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), the two sides reaffirmed the significance of the naval relationship as well as areas of ongoing cooperation, including defense technology and military-to-military collaboration.

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Apart from meetings, Aquilino’s visit also included other interactions as well. For instance, per MINDEF, he visited Singapore defense facilities and equipment, including Changi Naval Base where he saw RSN’s Formidable-class frigate RSS Stalwart.

Aquilino’s trip was just one of a range of defense-related interactions between the United States and Singapore. Nonetheless, it reinforced the continuing importance of visits and exchanges at high levels within the U.S.-Singapore relationship as well as the defense policy approaches of both countries within the wider Asia-Pacific region.