U.S. 'Grateful' for Strong Partnership With Singapore, Carter Says

In Singapore today, Defense Secretary Ash Carter lauded the 50th anniversary of U.S. diplomatic relations with that country and highlighted the importance of cooperation in maritime security and anti-terrorism.

The United States is, as it has been for decades, thankful to have a capable, principled partner in Singapore, the defense secretary said at a press conference with his Singaporean counterpart, Ng Eng Hen. They spoke at the Defense Ministry in Bukit Batok.

"We have no better friend than Singapore," Carter said. "I'm grateful for that." 

Singapore, he said, just like the United States, stands for cooperation, inclusiveness and principle in the conduct of international affairs.

Hen described the defense relations between Singapore and the U.S. as "very strong."

Security agreements with the United States underscore Singapore's belief that the "U.S. presence in our region has contributed and will continue to contribute greatly to our stability in this region," he said.

Carter, who is making his fifth visit to the Asia-Pacific in just over a year, is promoting the U.S. rebalance to the region. He is to deliver an address tomorrow at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual conference hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Important Partnership

Singapore contributes greatly to regional maritime security and is host to a rotational presence of U.S. littoral combat ships and P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, Carter said.

"We're grateful to have a partner here in that field," the secretary said.

Carter and Hen today flew on a P-8 and received a briefing on the capabilities of the aircraft while over Singapore and the Strait of Malacca.

From the skies, seeing the international shipping flags from all around the world in the strait is a "great sign of the global commons at work, which is one of the things that we try to protect with our militaries," Carter said.

Any instability in the strait or waters in the region would be of "enormous impact" both regionally and globally, Hen said, noting the vast amount of commercial traffic that passes through those waters.

Decades-Long Relationship

The P-8 is only one example of Singapore's hospitality, Carter said, pointing out that more than 100 U.S. Navy ships and more than 800 U.S. aircraft transit through Singapore every year.

"And of course, that's just the beginning," he said, noting that cooperation between the two nations also includes disaster response, humanitarian efforts, anti-piracy actions, and fighting terrorism and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific region is a strong, decades-long cooperation based upon principle, non-exclusion, cooperation and common interest, Carter said.

The United States recognized Singapore's independence from Malaysia in 1965 and has had formal diplomatic relations with Singapore since 1966, according to the State Department website.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)