FPDA countries say they want to give 50-year-old defence pact ‘modern relevance’

Representatives from member states of the Five Power Defence Arrangements

Member states of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) said on Saturday (Jun 11) that they are committed to ensuring the 50-year-old defence pact has “modern relevance” in the face of complex security challenges.

The FPDA, formed in 1971 against the backdrop of armed conflict across Southeast Asia, comprises Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and Britain. Under the pact, member states must consult each other in case of an armed attack on Malaysia or Singapore.

On Saturday, Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen hosted delegates from the member states to breakfast on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue. Australia’s representative said the tone of the meeting was “one of a real sense of comfort among old friends”.

“We’re mindful of the need to give the FPDA a modern relevance, and we’re really committed to doing that,” Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles said.

“That we have such a good relationship in the context of a world where there are pretty complex strategic challenges is a huge asset for all of us.”

Marles said the group is looking at working together in areas like maritime security, counter-terrorism, humanitarian missions as well as securing supply chains.

“All of these are fields in which we can work to give the FPDA a modern relevance, which we are really keen to do,” he said.

“Because relationships such as we’ve got now between old friends, where there is a genuine war, is something that is really precious in the modern world.”

Member states also share a “deep friendship” reflected by the way their armed forces participate in joint exercises, he added.

Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said in a statement on Saturday that FPDA member states expressed support to continually deepen the professional value of the group’s exercises.

“The FPDA continues to play a useful role in promoting regional cooperation, and contributes constructively to the regional security architecture through the conduct of regular exercises, dialogues and platforms for professional interactions,” it said.

The representatives also discussed the “important role” of the FPDA in building confidence and promoting a rules-based international order, the ministry added.

For instance, in the South China Sea, which has seen escalating tensions between China and countries in the region, the FPDA helps countries avoid “unintended accidents”, said Malaysia’s Senior Minister of Defence Hishammuddin Hussein.

“It is not a question of how many Chinese assets or US planes are flying across the South China Sea. My biggest concern is unintended accidents and incidents that may spiral out of control and make it bigger than what it is,” he said.

New Zealand’s Minister of Defence Peeni Henare said the FPDA member states have an “unwavering” commitment to the group.

“(It’s) also an opportunity to allow us to prioritize and regenerate our military and our cooperation collectively, as we seek towards perhaps another 50 years and carving out a future legacy for us,” he said.



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