Section I: Singapore's Outlook for Regional Security
- The overall outlook for the Asia-Pacific is encouraging but it is laced with uncertainty associated with the threat of terrorism. There have been no wars or major conflicts, and the regional economies are on the road to recovery from the recent economic crisis. There has also been increasing interest in improving the existing economic co-operation and aiming for more integrated markets in East Asia.
- The triangular relationship between US, China and Japan remains the foundation for stability in the region. China's accession to the WTO is a significant development that will bring greater economic benefits -to the region, which will in turn contribute to greater regional stability. In addition, 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. The momentum of the inter-Korea dialogue generated by the June 2000 Summit between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il has slowed down considerably. However, there have been recent attempts to resuscitate the dialogue process. Following the visit to Pyongyang by the South Korean presidential envoy Lim Dong-won in Apr 2002, North Korea was reportedly more forthcoming on the resumption of talks with South Korea and the US. Nevertheless, many difficult issues remain and would take time to resolve.
- East Timor will gain independence on 20 May 2002. However, its reconstruction needs remain enormous. It is important that. the international community remains engaged in East Timor, particularly through the successor mission to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), to facilitate East Timor's independence and entry into the international community.
- In the South China Sea, the competing claims remain unresolved. However, there are positive attempts to manage the situation, such as the ASEAN-China consultations on developing a Code of Conduct for the area and the recent Biodiversity Expedition to the Anambas involving participants of the Workshop on Managing Potential Conflicts in the South China Sea.
- The 7th ASEAN Summit in Brunei Darussalam took place against the backdrop of the September 11 event, global economic slowdown and i long-term challenges to ASEAN. There were several key outcomes. One, the Leaders issued the ASEAN Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism which focuses on practical and immediate measures to combat international terrorism. Two, the Leaders launched the Roadmap for Integration of ASEAN and unanimously agreed that ASEAN must move forward to advance market liberalisation and close economic gaps. Three, the meeting endorsed the Economic Ministers' recommendation to engage a well-known international consultant to study ASEAN's competitiveness. The Summit also supported the idea of an ASEAN-China FTA and tasked the Ministers and senior officials to commence negotiations for a free trade agreement representing a potential economic powerhouse of some 2 billion consumers.
- The ARF remains the most important multilateral forum for discussing and exchanging views on regional security issues. In recent years, the ARF has helped build up confidence and trust, and develop cooperative norms of behaviour amongst member states. It has also made positive initial steps towards the next stage, which is Preventive Diplomacy (PO), and ventured to discuss the implications of terrorism, and consider practical ways in which the ARF can support international efforts to counter terrorism. While the ARF attempts to deal with non-conventional threats such as terrorism, it should continue to address traditional threats to the security of the region that still exist.
Section II: Review of Regional Co-operation
- Security co-operation in the Asia-Pacific continues to progress well. Bilateral co-operation has been growing both in depth and scope, with substantial bilateral defence co-operation between countries, involving exchange visits, cross attendance of courses, joint training and exercises and security dialogues. In terms of the institutionalisation of multilateral co-operation, mechanisms for region-wide security dialogue, such as the ARF and the Council for Security Co-operation in the Asia pacific (CSCAP), are now well established. Combating terrorism has also served as a galvanising factor providing further impetus to regional co-operation.
- In fact, ASEAN has taken several concrete measures to address the threat of terrorism. At the 8th ASEAN Summit in November 2001, ASEAN's leaders issued a Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism. In the same month, the ASEAN Army Chiefs signed a declaration to counter terrorism. This has been followed up by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting in Phuket in February 2002 where they exchanged views on each countries' counter terrorism efforts and reiterated ASEAN's political resolve to deal with the challenges posed by terrorism. The ASEAN Home Affairs Ministers are also scheduled to meet in May 2002 for the Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crimes (AMMTC) on terrorism where they will explore ways for ASEAN to step up practical cooperation against terrorism. At the ARF level, ASEAN countries have supported ad hoc workshops on counter terrorism jointly organised by countries like the US, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia.
- Within the ARF, many confidence-building measures (CBMs) have been implemented and many more are in the process of implementation. The ARF is currently in the process of finalising a proposal by New Zealand for an ARF Register of CBMs. This would enable the ARF to keep track of CBM activities, and educate members on the expertise of other ARF members in various areas.
- 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 during lunch at the Ministerial and inter- sessional meetings. Such interactions among defence officials contribute substantially to confidence building within the ARF, and towards this end, Singapore has circulated a draft Concept Paper for an ARF Defence Dialogue.
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 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. In 2001, there were more than 100 high-level visits to MINDEF/SAF by foreign- delegations as well as 18 bilateral fora. 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:
- The SAF took part in a number of multilateral exercises in 2001. These included Exercise Cobra Gold with the Royal Thai Armed Forces and the US Armed Forces in May. The inaugural multilateral Western Pacific Mine Countermeasure Exercise and Western Pacific Diving Exercise were hosted by the RSN in June 2001. 1500 personnel and 15 ships from 16 navies participated in the 12-day exercise.
- In conjunction with Asian Aerospace 2002 earlier this year, the SAF organised a C41 (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence Asia Conference: Force Transformation in the Information Age in February 2002. The event brought together leading experts and proponents around the world and provided a platform to address the advent of digital battlespace, and the resulting need for defence forces to understand and exploit the potential of the Information Age.
- 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 last decade, the SAF has contributed over 900 personnel to UN 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). The SAF deployed its first platoon of combat peacekeepers with UNTAET in June 2001.