Chinese Defence Minister General Chang Wanquan and his Singaporean counterpart Ng Eng-hen agreed at a meeting in Beijing on Thursday to continue to work together to deepen defence ties and build mutual trust under the “Four-Point Consensus” reached on November 14, 2014.
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“Both sides should put this important consensus into practice … strengthen mutual advantage under the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, and seize the opportunity to break new ground for cooperation,” Chang, who is also a state councillor, was quoted as saying in a statement released by China’s defence ministry.
“We want to step up bilateral exercises between our navies and armies. As Asean-China coordinator and Asean chair next year … [Singapore wishes] to promote stability and progress in the region,” he said.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s three-day visit to China, which ended on Thursday. Lee met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday evening.
Despite the mutual commitment, Rajeev Ranjan Chaturvedy, a research associate at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, said the announcement was mostly symbolic.
“Economically, Singapore and China have a close relationship, and Singapore is keen to participate in China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, and [projects related to] urban development, robotics and the digital silk road … [but] on the security front, the United States is, and will remain, Singapore’s strongest partner”, he said.
The city state “will become a stakeholder in the ‘Belt and Road’ plan where it has a competitive advantage … but I don’t see there being any close Singapore-China military links in the near future”, Chaturvedy said.
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