Thursday, October 8, 2009

Singapore Hosts Intelligence Chiefs Pow-Wow

Defense News


Singapore Hosts Intelligence Chiefs Pow-Wow

By Wendell Minnick

Taipei - Singapore Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean played host to the second Asia-Pacific Intelligence Chiefs Conference (APICC) Feb. 18-20 at the Sheraton Towers Hotel.

The conference is co-hosted by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the U.S. Pacific Command. APICC is an informal forum for military intelligence chiefs from the Asia-Pacific region to discuss intelligence challenges.

The theme for this year's conference is "Sharing Expertise in Managing Transnational Security Issues," a press release said. The first conference was held in 2007 in Kuala Lumpur.

The conference focused on "enhanced information-sharing among the Asia-Pacific nations on counterterrorism, maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief."

Intelligence officials included representatives from Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.

During the opening ceremony, Teo said that "intelligence and information sharing is an important aspect of international cooperation" and emphasized that by sharing diverse perspectives and experiences, such exchanges help to build understanding and "lay the foundation for our countries and armed forces to work together in response to any future crises."

He stressed that in today's complex security landscape "our armed forces and intelligence professionals need to cooperate in the sharing of information, knowledge and expertise" as this was "crucial for a collective understanding of the challenges faced, and to enable relevant and coordinated responses by the stakeholders."

Teo said the economic crisis would compound problems in the areas of terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, piracy, natural disasters and pandemics.

"These hardships will create additional social and political stresses, and, if not managed properly, could lead to greater friction and tensions. We saw this in our region here in southeast Asia in the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis," he said.

Only by international cooperation can problems be kept from spinning out of control. He said three broad principles would help regional actors survive this coming crisis.

"First, achieving regional security is the collective responsibility of all stakeholder countries. Second, our cooperative approach should be open and inclusive, engaging responsible international organizations and extra-regional stakeholders that can play a constructive role. And third, such cooperation must take place in a framework of respect for international law, regional norms and national sovereignty, recognizing the diversity of the Asia-Pacific region."

As an example, Teo pointed to Singapore's creation of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) in 2006 with 14 member countries.

"The ReCAAP Informational Sharing Centre has helped to provide more accurate reports of incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region, as well as facilitated the sharing of best practices among countries," he said.

"Similarly, the Information Fusion Centre, to be located at the Changi Command and Control Centre in Singapore, will enhance information-sharing on the sea situation in our region and beyond, thereby promoting international and regional maritime security cooperation."

Teo also pointed to the Mumbai attacks as a latest example of a "string of terrorist attacks" and a "grim reminder that terrorism remains a common and persistent threat."

Teo said good intelligence cooperation in information exchange, early warning and capacity building are the foundations to fighting terrorism.

"Countering the regional Jemaah Islamiyah network, whose tentacles spread across several countries in our region, including Singapore, would not have been possible without good intelligence exchange and close regional cooperation," he said.

"Good intelligence exchange and concerted action has also allowed the JI network to be disrupted, potential attacks thwarted and key personalities arrested."