Singapore took a firm position against Hamas and strongly condemned the attacks the militant group launched inside Israel on Oct 7, starting the war. Singapore’s strong stance against Hamas leaves it out of step with its larger Muslim-majority neighbours.
“The more important lesson for us is that peace can be stolen or lost very quickly,” said Ng Eng Hen, Singapore’s defence minister. “While we are now a relative area of peace and security, we can lose it if we as leaders in our nations do not pay attention to the deteriorating situation in the Middle East and Asia.”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu were set to join the meetings, but there is little likelihood of a talk between them.
Austin made earlier stops in Asia aimed at showing unity over Russia’s war in Ukraine and preventing differences on the Israel-Hamas war from deepening. He also met with South Korean Defence Minister Shin Won-sik and others in Seoul to discuss boosting nuclear deterrence against North Korea.
China is represented at the meetings by Jing Jianfeng, the deputy chief of staff of China’s Central Military Commission, but it is unlikely he will meet with Austin on the meeting sidelines. China’s previous defence minister, Li Shangfu, was ousted last month, and Beijing has not named his successor.
Military contacts between the US and China were largely severed after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022, prompting China’s military to hold unprecedented exercises near the self-governed island.
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