More Regional Cooperation Called For; Global Air Power Conference Addresses Security Challenges
By Wendell Minnick
Singapore - Minister of Defense Teo Chee Hean called for more regional defense cooperation in his opening address to the Global Air Power Conference (GAPC) held Jan. 18 at the Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Teo said countries were becoming increasingly dependent on each other for peace and stability. "Deeper and broader cooperation is needed to protect our shared interest in peace and stability."
Themed "Air Power: Pushing Frontiers, Shaping Paradigms," GAPC is an official event of the inaugural Singapore Airshow and supported by the Republic of Singapore Air Force and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. Twelve speakers, including eight air chiefs, spoke to a packed hall in the fourth conference of the Asia-Pacific Security Conference series.
Teo discussed the new security challenges facing not just Singapore, but also the Asia-Pacific region and the international community.
"The security challenges of today are uncertain. The spectrum of threats has widened, and can arise from a variety of sources - state and non-state actors, natural disasters and new disease," he said.
Teo pointed to a broad range of non-conventional threats including terrorism, piracy, low-intensity conflicts, natural disasters and pandemics that "are not confined within borders but can spread rapidly."
As an example of a long-term success, Teo pointed to the oldest defense agreement Singapore has participated in, the Five Power Defense Agreement , founded in 1971, as proof regional cooperation among the signatories, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, can result in a more secure region.
He also cited the three-year-old "Eye in the Sky" cooperative effort, in which Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean aircraft monitor the Malacca Straits for piracy. The sea robberies in the Malacca Straits has declined sharply, leading Lloyd's of London to remove the area from its list of war-risk areas in 2006.
The Malacca Straits, a critical shipping channel linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans, annually sees one-third of the world's commercial shipping and half of the world's oil cargo ships.
Teo said UAVs, precision strike and other technology mean "the concepts behind the employment of air power also need to evolve and catch up."
He argued that air power alone is often not sufficient enough to resolve a conflict or bring about the desired result. However, air power can have a significant influence over non-combat operations.
"The speed and reach of air power makes it a powerful tool in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Air assets are also often called upon to assist in surveillance, damage assessment, rescue and relief operations," he said.
Teo pointed to manned and unmanned aircraft that surveyed flooded areas of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
"Helicopters in particular, played a crucial role in relief operations during the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, where the ground transport infrastructure was severely damaged," he said.
Teo served in various positions in the navy, including as navy chief in 1991-92, and as a member of the Joint Staff. He was appointed defense minister in August 2003 and reappointed in May 2006.