Section I: Singapore's Outlook for Regional Security
The prognosis for the Asia-Pacific is reasonably encouraging. There have been no wars or major conflicts, and the regional economies are on the road to recovery from the recent economic crisis.
The triangular relationship between US, China and Japan remains the foundation for stability in the region. China's movement towards WTO membership is a significant development that will bring greater economic benefits to the region, which will in turn contribute to greater regional stability. How well the respective economies of the US and Japan perform will have a significant bearing on the prosperity and stability in the region.
In Northeast Asia, the situation in the Korean Peninsula remains uncertain. There have been some positive progress following the successful inter- Korea Summit between President Kim Dae-jung and Chairman Kim Jong-il. Several initiatives were launched and exchanges re-established. However, many difficult issues remain and would take time to resolve.
In Southeast Asia, East Timor's reconstruction is underway, but there are uncertainties. The UN has pointed out that the costs involved are higher than originally anticipated, and there is a need for greater support from the international community.
In the South China Sea, the competing claims remain unresolved, but there are positive attempts to manage the situation, such as the ASEAN-China consultations on developing a Code of Conduct for the area.
The 4th ASEAN Informal Summit in Singapore in November 2000 saw ASEAN put forward initiatives that, over time, will enhance ASEAN's competitiveness, help reduce the developmental gap within ASEAN and make ASEAN more cohesive. Another key outcome was the clear sense amongst ASEAN leaders and the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea to move eventually towards an East Asian community.
The ARF remains the most important multilateral forum for discussing and exchanging views on regional security issues. In recent years, the ARF has built up a high level of comfort among member countries. It has made positive initial steps towards the next stage, which is Preventive Diplomacy (PD). The ARF has also ventured beyond traditional areas of security to examine transnational crimes, which have become an area of greater concern. It is imperative for ARF members to continue their efforts in these and other-areas so as to provide the necessary conditions for regional peace and stability.
Section II: Review of Regional Co-operation
Security co-operation in the Asia-Pacific is progressing well. Bilateral co-operation between regional countries has been growing both in depth and scope. There is now substantial bilateral defence co-operation between countries in the Asia-Pacific, involving exchange visits, cross attendance of courses, joint training and exercises and security dialogues. There has also been steady progress in the institutionalisation of multilateral co-operation in the Asia-Pacific region over the past few years. Mechanisms for region-wide security dialogue, such as the ARF and the Council for Security Co-operation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP), have been firmly established.
Within the ARF, many confidence-building measures have been implemented and-many more are in the process of implementation. The ARF has also embarked on maritime security co-operation and co-operation to deal with transnational problems such as illicit trafficking of small arms, piracy and illegal migration. In addition, there is considerable discussion both within the ARF as well as in Track II forums, on the concept, principles and application of preventive diplomacy in the region.
Another positive development is the increasing participation of defence officials in the ARF. Defence officials participate in ARF meetings at all levels and meet informally among themselves during lunch at the Ministerial and inter-session meetings. Interactions among defence officials in these meetings contribute substantially to confidence building within the ARF.
Section III: Singapore's Approach and Contributions to regional Security
As a small country, Singapore's peace and prosperity are inextricably linked to the region's peace and stability. We are conscious that both our security and economic well being will become even more susceptible to any instability in our external environment when we become more integrated with the global economy in the 21st century. Hence, one of the key thrusts of Singapore's defence strategy for the new century is to work with friendly countries to promote dialogue, confidence-building and co-operation both on a bilateral and multilateral basis, in order to maintain a peaceful and stable regional environment.
Singapore believes that regional security and stability is best served by having a security architecture comprising strong bilateral relationships and multilateral arrangements. Singapore enjoys close ties with many countries in the Asia-Pacific and will continue to strengthen and deepen these bilateral ties. On the multilateral level, Singapore will do its best to contribute to regional defence and security co-operation. It will seek to strengthen existing multilateral arrangements such as the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) and the ARF, as well as to foster and support new arrangements to enhance regional peace and stability.
Singapore believes that multilateral defence and military dialogue and co-operation, in areas such as maritime security, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance and transnational problems, has the potential to be further developed. Military co-operation and dialogue in these areas will also enhance trust and confidence among regional armed forces.
As part of the process of positioning itself for the 21st century, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will promote regional military co-operation and dialogue. Over the years, the SAF has developed a wide range of bilateral interactions with a number of armed forces in the region. These include joint exercises and training programmes, exchange visits, professional seminars and cross- attendance of military courses. The SAF will continue to enhance its interoperability with friendly forces in the region in various areas of professional interest.
In addition to professional interactions at the bilateral level, all three Services of the SAF have actively engaged in multilateral defence co-operation and confidence building measures. The following are some of the recent multilateral initiatives that the SAF was involved in:
In February 2000, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) hosted the Millennium Air Power Conference in Singapore. The conference provided an opportunity for air force chiefs from around the world to discuss developments in air power concepts and technology in this new millennium.
In Aug 2000, the SAF Headquarters Medical Corp co-organised the ARF Combined Humanitarian Assistance Response Training (CHART) Course with the US Centre of Excellence in Singapore as a new ARF CBM. The CHART Course was attended by some 47 defence, civil affairs and foreign affairs officials from 17 ARF member countries.
In Oct 2000, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) hosted the first multilateral submarine rescue exercise in the Western Pacific Region. Known as Ex Pacific Reach, the exercise brought together 600 participants from 11 countries, including those from the US, Japan, ROK. Australia, China and Russia, amongst others, were observers to the exercise.
In Nov 2000, the RSN hosted the 2nd International Mine Counter Measure Seminar. The seminar was attended by more than 60 delegates from 18 navies.
Singapore has been consistently supporting the efforts of the UN in its peacekeeping efforts as a way of contributing to regional and global peace and stability. Over the past ten years, more than 800 SAF and other Singaporean personnel have participated in such missions. Singapore was among the first countries to contribute to the International Force in East Timor (INTERFET) and subsequently maintained our contribution of a medical team, civilian policemen and some military staff officers in the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). Most recently, Singapore has pledged a platoon of peacekeepers to UNTAET. The platoon will be deployed with the New Zealand
Defence Force in the western sector of East Timor. The platoon of peacekeepers is an extension of Singapore's contribution to maintaining stability in East Timor and thereby helping to enhance regional security.
In Jan 200 I, the SAF has sent two officers to participate in the UN Mission- in Ethiopia and Eritrea as military observers. This new mission has been established by the UN to monitor the cessation of hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea so as to facilitate the delimitation and demarcation of the border.