5-Power Defense Chiefs Issue Exercise Directive
By WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI — A new agreement on military exercises aims to foster interoperability and interaction among the armed forces of Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
Issued Oct. 14 in Singapore during the Defense Chiefs’ Conference of the Five Power Defense Arrangements, the directive also aims to improve the members’ capacity for conventional and nonconventional operations, according to an FPDA statement.
The countries founded the FPDA in 1971 to facilitate consultation during an attack on or threat against Malaysia or Singapore, both former British colonies. The group’s periodic conferences, hosted alternately by Malaysia and Singapore, foster regional military exercises.
The new directive provides guidance on large-scale FPDA field training and command post exercises, Singapore’s chief of Defense Force (CDF), Lt. Gen. Neo Kian Hong, said in his remarks to open the conference. These include the Exercise Bersama Padu, currently underway, as well as the Exercise Bersama Lima and Exercise Suman Protecter, which will be conducted in Singapore in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The conference has a “marginal, but not negligible significance,” said Singapore-based Timothy Huxley, a Southeast Asia defense specialist for the International Institute of Strategic Studies.
Huxley said it provides a channel through which the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand can stay involved in southeast Asian security issues and offers a means for communication and exchange on defense matters between Malaysia and Singapore.
He said that the conference has helped to resolve some disruptions in cooperation between Singapore and Malaysia because of political tensions.
Huxley said the conference is useful in terms of providing an “opportunity for the exchange of views on the regional security landscape, and in more practical terms the schedule of FPDA exercises and exchanges, and perhaps operational aspects of the Integrated Area Defence System, the FPDA’s full-time air and maritime surveillance center in northern Malaysia.”
Top-tier attendees at this year’s conference included Australia’s CDF, Air Chief Marshal Allan Grant Houston; Malaysia’s CDF, Gen. Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Azizan bin Ariffin; New Zealand’s CDF, Lt. Gen. Jeremiah Mateparae; and the United Kingdom’s chief of the Defense Staff (Designate), Gen. David Richards.
After the conference, the defense chiefs paid a call on Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Teo Chee Hean at the Ministry of Defense and attended the Oct. 15 opening ceremony for the Exercise Bersama Padu at Butterworth Airbase, Penang, Malaysia.
The three-week exercise involves 13 ships and 63 aircraft comprising military units from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom. It is being held at locations across the Malaysian Peninsula as well as the South China Sea.