There should be no reason for Singapore’s defence ties with the United States to diminish under a Donald Trump administration in the White House, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Sunday (Nov 13).
Singapore’s relationship with other countries — be it the US or China — is premised on mutual benefit and the Republic is “not dependent on any one country”.
The minister was responding to a question on whether Singapore would have to shoulder a greater burden in ensuring its and the region’s defence when US President-elect Trump comes to power in January.
Mr Trump had, during his campaign, called for US allies to foot a greater share of defence spending.
“When we enter into memorandums of understanding or defence agreements, it’s always on the basis of mutual benefit, so for the US, we’re doing a lot with them and for them,” Dr Ng told reporters after observing a Republic of Singapore Air Force exercise.
For example, Singapore welcomes the global superpower’s ships and planes through its naval and air bases “where there’s a confluence or alignment of interests”, such as in the fight against terror, said Dr Ng.
“We’ve served in Afghanistan and now we’re working towards diminishing Isis’ (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s) ability to radicalise Singaporeans here,” he added.
“I’d say that we’ve been doing a lot for our defence partners like the US, so I think on that score, we’ve already been doing a lot and I don’t see that as any reason why it should diminish our defence ties with the US,” he said, adding that the same approach applies to its relations with countries like China and Japan.
When asked if Singapore was worried about the prospect that the US’ pivot towards Asia might shift under Mr Trump’s presidency, Dr Ng reiterated that the starting point of Singapore’s defence policy was “what works the best” for the country.
What the major powers do will affect not only Singapore but the region and the world, he acknowledged.
“President-elect Trump was voted in and he’ll be the President, and we’ll have to work with the administration to maintain the good ties that we’ve had,” he said.
Historically, Dr Ng said that Singapore and the US, which share “strong institutional defence ties”, have strengthened their defence relationship under presidents from both the Democratic and Republican parties.
“I believe that we can continue to do so,” he added.
Earlier this morning, Dr Ng observed the RSAF’s Exercise Torrent, which returned after an eight-year hiatus and saw Lim Chu Kang Road transform into a runway.
In rapid succession, a fleet of 12 fighter aircraft – comprising the F-15SG, F-16C/D and F-16D+ – thundered down the road as well as the runway and taxiways at the nearby Tengah Air Base as they conducted simultaneous launch and recovery operations.
This is the seventh such exercise since April 1986.