Thursday, June 18, 2009

War On Extremism, can’t have a foreign policy shift without it.

War On Extremism, can’t have a foreign policy shift without it.

It's official! The first Joint SAF (Singapore Armed Force) PLA counter-terrorism training exercise is code named “Cooperation 2009," marking a new level of Sino-Singoporean relations. The 9 day training exercise begins today in Guilin and lasts until June 26 (Here).

Singapore has strong military ties with the ROC (Republic of China). Since 1975, Singapore has been training troops in Taiwan under the code name of “Operation Starlight.” During its peak in the 1980s 15000 troops were trained annually. Singapore also maintains a strong military relationship with the US and allows availability of the Paya Lebar airbase and Sembawang Wharves. Singapore also plays a support role in the ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Coincidentally, the government of Singapore is also a strong supporter of the PRC's (People’s Republic of China) “One China Policy” and actively promotes cross-strait diplomacy championed by “Minister Mentor” Lee Yuan Yew, which puts Singapore in an awkward position. When the PRC offered Hainan Island in 2001 as an alternative training site, Singapore turned it down and refused to make public comment, fearing it may complicate its delicate position. Singapore then turned down joint military exercises requested by the ROC (Here)

Until recently, Singapore continued this balancing act of keeping harmonious relations with the ROC and the US while strengthening it’s economic ties with the PRC. During Prime Minister Wen's November 2008 visit to Singapore, the construction of a second industrial park (an eco-city) in Tianjin was agreed upon. It will be modeled after the successful Suzhou Industrial Park. For a small island state of Singapore, having access to large industrial real estate is critical for future growth.

In 2004, Singapore’s stance on the “One China Policy” was questioned in public by the then ROC pro-independent president Lee Teng-hui after Singapore’s failure to support its UN bid. For many, this diplomatic spat was seen as a departure between Singapore and the ROC: a trend that has been developing for sometime as Singapore seeks to expend its economic and cultural ties with the PRC. “Operation Starlight” is slowly being scaled down and is now under low profile. Singaporean troops in ROC wear ROC Army uniforms and are permitted limited leave to prevent local interaction. The bulk of Singapore's military training is now being conducted in Australia’s Shoalwater Bay. In January 2008, Singapore signed the first Sino-Singapore defense pact to formalize existing armed forces exchanges while pledging to work together on humanitarian assistance (Here)

Two recent events have greatly reduced the difficulty of Singapore’s balancing act. First, the US focus on “fighting extremism” coupled with the current economic downturn brings the Sino-US relationship to its closest in recent memory (minor juxtaposition in South China Sea not withstanding). Second, the election of Ma Ying Jeou to the presidency of ROC brings back the traditional Chinese concept of “Make Money, Not War” resulting in an easing of cross-strait tension. These two events give Singapore an opportunity to enhance security cooperation with the PRC without upsetting the ROC. Surely, no one would object to nations banding together to fight extremism, right?

SAF, PLA in joint exercise
FOR the first time, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has teamed up with China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) to conduct a joint counter-terrorism (CT) training exercise.

The nine-day exercise, which is held in Guilin, China, starts on Thursday and ends on June 26.

Codenamed COOPERATION 2009, the joint CT training exercise will involve 60 participating troops each from the SAF and the PLA. It will focus on the conduct of security operations for major events and consequence management concepts related to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Explosive (CBRE) threats.

The SAF's participating troops are from the 2nd People's Defence Force and the SAF CBRE Defence Group. They will exercise with personnel from the PLA Emergency Response Office and Guangzhou Military Region.

Said the Ministry of Defence: 'COOPERATION 2009 marks the first bilateral training exercise between the SAF and the PLA, and underscores the progress made in the defence relationship between Singapore and China following the signing of the bilateral Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Cooperation in January 2008.

'COOPERATION 2009 also serves to enhance the mutual understanding and friendship between the SAF and the PLA, which interact regularly through exchanges of visits, courses, seminars and port calls.'

China, Singapore hold joint anti-terror training exercises 2009-06-19

  BEIJING, June 18 (Xinhua) -- China and Singapore are conducting a joint anti-terrorism training exercise in Guilin in the southwest Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, military sources said Thursday.

  The drill, "Cooperation-2009", involves 61 soldiers and officers of the People's Liberation Army and 61 of their Singapore counterparts, Huang Xueping, spokesman with the Ministry of National Defense, told Xinhua.

  The exercise started Thursday and will conclude June 26.

  The exercise will conduct simulations of an attempt by international terrorists to attack an expo using radioactive contaminants, biological and chemical weapons.

  The task forces will conduct joint training and seminars to improve their ability to detect and handle those threats, the spokesman said.

  The joint training exercises were arranged by defense authorities of the two countries, and they represent the PLA's first joint operation with foreign forces in security maintenance, Huang said.

  The exercise would improve the forces' ability to deal with multiple security threats and help maintain peace and stability in the Asian-Pacific region, he said.

  China's military took part in security operations during the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games last summer. The PLA deployed some 179,000 personnel from its army, navy and air force around and near the capital.


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