Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and his Chinese counterpart signed the deal in Beijing recently – ahead of China’s annual security conference, the Xiangshan Forum. - NST FILE PIC

UNDER a new agreement, called the Visiting Forces Agreement, troops from Singapore and China will visit each other, while a mutual logistics support arrangement has also been put in place.

The two countries will also have frequent high-level dialogues and large scale military exercises involving all three arms of their militaries.

These new collaborations are a top-up to the Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Collaboration signed between the two nations in 2008.

According to reports in The New Paper, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and his Chinese counterpart signed the deal in Beijing recently – ahead of China’s annual security conference, the Xiangshan Forum.

The two sides also promised to continue to send their top defence officials to multilateral conferences, such as Singapore's annual Shangri-La Dialogue and China's Xiangshan Forum in Beijing.

There will also be academic exchanges between military academies and think-tanks of both countries, while a bilateral hotline will be set up.

Military affairs expert Collin Koh said Beijing's defence diplomacy outreach has been increasingly active in South-east Asia.

Promoting stronger military ties with China is also in Singapore's interest, as it takes into account China's rising clout.

The Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies research fellow also pointed out challenges in this upgraded deal.

One, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and China's People Liberation Army (PLA) have different organisational cultures, doctrines and equipment, which means it will take time to improve interoperability and expand the scope of joint training.

Two, Singapore needs to manage operational and technological sensitivities given its close defence and security links with the West, especially the US, from whom the SAF buys large amounts of military equipment.

"Fostering closer ties with the PLA should not be misperceived as at the expense of undermining the longstanding trust and cooperation with the US military. So it's a delicate balance to strike," said Koh.