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Singapore, US strengthen defence ties with AI innovation pact

Singapore and the United States have inked an agreement to further cooperate on defence innovation, such as leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous systems to solve their militaries’ operational challenges.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU), signed on May 31, will also see both countries work on solutions to ongoing security challenges, such as the development of counter-drone capabilities, and technologies to enhance maritime security.

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said the MOU was signed at Shangri-La Hotel by Singapore’s chief defence scientist Tan Peng Yam and Douglas Beck, director of the US’ Defence Innovation Unit and senior adviser to America’s secretary of defence.

The signing was witnessed by US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen. Austin is visiting Singapore for the 21st Shangri-La Dialogue security summit, which is being held here from May 31 to June 2.

Dr Ng said: “Emerging and dual-use technologies are rapidly evolving, and defence establishments need to find ways to better harness these commercial technologies at the speed of relevance.

“This MOU is a significant step for Singapore and the US in strengthening our respective defence ecosystems, particularly the commercial space, to adopt innovation solutions for our armed forces.”

Dual-use items are goods, software and technology that can be used for both civilian and military applications.

Meeting before they witnessed the signing of the MOU, Dr Ng and Austin reaffirmed their countries’ mutually beneficial partnership and discussed ways to strengthen defence cooperation.

Dr Ng also expressed appreciation for the US’ longstanding support for SAF’s training in the US, as well as for its access to US technology, such as in the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s acquisition and operation of F-35 aircraft first ordered in 2020.

They then discussed geopolitical developments and regional security issues, and reaffirmed the importance of the US’ continued engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.

Austin also conveyed his appreciation for Singapore’s consistent support for the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, including the hosting of rotational deployments.

The leaders also exchanged views on ways to build a robust, open and inclusive regional architecture, with America reaffirming its contributions to defence capacity-building through the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus.

Austin had earlier called on Prime Minister Lawrence Wong in the morning, and they reaffirmed the excellent and longstanding bilateral defence relations between Singapore and the US, and discussed ongoing defence initiatives between both countries.

They also exchanged views on geopolitical developments and the regional security architecture, and reiterated their shared commitment to stability and prosperity in the region.

Austin affirmed the US’ continued support for the Singapore Armed Forces’ training in the US, and PM Wong emphasised Singapore’s longstanding support for the US’ regional presence.

Chinese Defence Minister Dong Jun also called on PM Wong on May 31, and they reaffirmed the longstanding and warm bilateral relationship between Singapore and China.

They also welcomed regular interactions between their defence establishments, including high-level visits, military-to-military interactions, and academic exchanges.

They exchanged views on global and regional security developments and discussed ways to strengthen cooperation and build mutual trust in the region, said Mindef.

Admiral Dong, who was appointed minister in December 2023, is on an introductory visit to Singapore.

The meeting between PM Wong and Adm Dong was also attended by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How, Mindef said.

Austin will speak on June 1 at a Shangri-La Dialogue plenary session titled United States’ Strategic Partnerships In The Indo-Pacific, while Adm Dong will speak on June 2 at a plenary session titled China’s Approach To Global Security. Straits Times

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