Singapore’s new defence chief visits Jakarta

Indonesia has always been good friend, says general.

Singapore’s newly-appointed Chief of Defence Force Lim Chuan Poh, on a one-day introductory trip here, said he chose Jakarta as his first stop because Indonesia has always been “a good friend” with defence relations continuing to be “very strong”.

He told The Straits Times yesterday that his visit was aimed at further strengthening military links between the two countries.

“Despite the economic crisis, the TNI has remained very committed to the bilateral activities that we have had before the crisis, and we are very appreciative of such efforts,” he said.

“We remain committed to the excellent relationship … and I will work with my counterpart to sustain and enhance ties.” Major-General Lim, 38, also took the opportunity to call on President Abdurrahman Wahid.

He said he sought the Indonesian leader’s opinion on the situation in Indonesia, and its relationship with the United States and Australia.

“I must say that I came out of the meeting very enlightened by the President,” he said.

In the talks with Indonesian military (TNI) chief Gen Widodo, Maj-Gen Lim said they discussed, in more concrete terms, ways to boost links between the two armed forces. Admiral Widodo disclosed that both sides were looking for a greater exchange of visits and joint exercises.

He also made specific reference to Singapore’s offer to take in Indonesian military officers for post-graduate studies and English-language training.

“Indonesia is very appreciative of what Singapore is doing to help the TNI,” he said. “The fact that its new military commander chose this country as his first stop shows the strong bonds that exist.”

Military ties have been central to the close cooperation between both countries. Current military links include joint exercises between the air forces and navies, as well as cooperation in search-and-rescue and anti-piracy patrols.

Naval and air-force exercises have been held since 1974 and 1980 respectively. But the two armies began exercising only in 1989 when Indonesian troops were sent to Singapore.

This is now a regular feature of bilateral cooperation.

A 1989 agreement paved the way for such annual army exercises benefiting both sides. Among other things, Singapore has access to various sites for land-training exercises while Indonesia gains access to military technology.

Both the SAF and TNI also developed jointly air-combat and air-weapons ranges.

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