Saturday, 10 September 2016

Singapore, China to hold joint naval drill; RSS Steadfast makes port call in Shanghai from 8 to 11 September 2016

RSN warship in Shanghai for half-day exercise involving 200 personnel from both countries
By Chong Koh Ping, China Correspondent In Shanghai, The Straits Times, 9 Sep 2016

The navies of Singapore and China will conduct a joint drill in waters at the mouth of the Yangtze river on Sunday in their first bilateral interaction this year.

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) frigate RSS Steadfast arrived at the port in Shanghai yesterday, after participating in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise - the world's largest international maritime exercise - in Hawaii.

The RSS Steadfast will hold a half-day drill with the People's Liberation Army (Navy) Jiangkai II-class frigate CNS Jingzhou which involves communication drills and manoeuvring exercises. More than 200 personnel from both sides will take part in the drill.

The drill will deepen practical cooperation between the RSN and PLA Navy following the inaugural bilateral exercise - Exercise Maritime Cooperation - which was conducted in the South China Sea in May last year, said the Ministry of Defence in a statement.

Both navies will practise using the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (Cues) on Sunday.

"We both subscribe to Cues," said RSN fleet commander Cheong Kwok Chien yesterday at the Yangzijiang Naval Jetty. "It's a very simple and effective way for navies at sea when we meet to be able to communicate effectively and to prevent collisions."

The code was signed in 2014 by 21 members of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium that includes China and eight Asean countries. On Wednesday, China and Asean pledged at a summit in Laos to implement Cues in the South China Sea to avert any potential conflicts there.

Colonel Cheong noted that this was the second time the warship has made a port call in Shanghai. The RSN also held a joint drill with China's navy off the Yangtze river in 2008, when the warship visited China for the first time.

Calling the PLA Navy a "close friend", Col Cheong said the port call is "a great signal that between the navies, we continue to cooperate and work together".

Col Cheong will call on PLA Navy East Sea fleet deputy commander Zhi Tianlong, Shanghai Naval Garrison commander Wang Jianxun and Shanghai municipal government vice-mayor Shi Guanghui today. This is his first visit to China after being appointed RSN fleet commander last month.

"We will keep finding opportunities to exercise between the RSN and the PLA Navy," said Col Cheong. He noted that this was part of a four-point consensus reached between the defence ministers of both countries in late 2014 to deepen mutual understanding and trust through practical cooperation and face-to-face interactions.

"Next year, when the RSN celebrates our 50th anniversary, we look forward to the PLA Navy ships coming to Singapore. This will give us the opportunity to work and train together again."

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