Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong asked the Minister for Defence how does Singapore view the relevance and significance of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) on its 50th anniversary and the recent conclusion of its Exercise Bersama Gold 2021, especially with a UK carrier strike group visiting South China Sea for the first time in many years and in light of the continuing tensions in the South China Sea.
Dr Ng Eng Hen: The Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) was established in 1971 to provide critical security for Malaysia and Singapore, then two young nations, following the withdrawal of British forces. Fifty years on, while the security context has changed, the remit of the FPDA has remained the same, that is, for member-nations to consult one another in the event of a threat or actual armed aggression against Malaysia or Singapore. This was reaffirmed by all member-nations at the recent FPDA Defence Ministers’ Meeting held in October 2021.
The FPDA also continues to bring value to its member-nations through exchanges and exercises that build confidence and enhance cooperation and interoperability across our militaries. In recent years, these activities have incorporated contemporary security threats, such as terrorism. Exercise Bersama Gold this year is the highlight exercise for the FPDA’s 50th Anniversary. The fact that, despite the pandemic, member-nations successfully held an exercise with around 2,700 troops, many ships and planes and a submarine, and pulled together a flypast and naval display over the Marina Bay area in Singapore reflects the strong, continued commitment of the five countries to the FPDA. It also underscores the FPDA’s non-threatening posture. Neighbouring countries understand and accept that the FPDA is not targeted at any one country or grouping, but has, for the past 50 years, been a transparent grouping that contributes to regional peace and security.
The FPDA complements other multilateral and bilateral defence exchanges which Singapore engages in. The Member mentioned the UK’s Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group’s recent transit through this region. Singapore has longstanding defence ties with the UK – in part, because of history, through the FPDA, but also because of shared interest in upholding international law and a rules-based order. We have welcomed UK ships calling at Singapore for decades for FPDA exercises, as well as for bilateral port calls and replenishment stops. We continue to welcome the UK’s constructive engagement in the region.
Ministry of Defence
2 November 2021