Transcript of Doorstop Interview with Minister For Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen During Visit to Changi Air Base (East)

Transcript of Doorstop Interview with Minister For Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen During Visit to Changi Air Base (East)

Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen: All of us are of course aware that many countries including Singapore are grappling with the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak. And as in previous outbreaks, whether it is an epidemic or a pandemic, there is a lifecycle to the viral attack and we must be prepared for ups and downs, but at the same time, make sure that Singapore keeps going. And we standby, of course the advisory and the measures that the Ministerial Task Force as well as our public health experts' advice and for the time being, the Airshow will still proceed.

But I am very thankful that for this Airshow, apart from the Republic of Singapore Air Force that is performing, that we also have the United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Marine Corps (USMC), as well as the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) here with their wonderful planes performing. It is really a vote of confidence; it is also a measure of how strong our relationship is. The USAF and USMC not only are here now but in fact, what they have brought for this Airshow is more than they have ever done. For the first time in the region, they have both the F-22 as well as the F-35Bs performing. The F-22s came from Honolulu, flew all the way from Honolulu. The F-35Bs came from Japan, and I spoke to the pilots, and the crew and they are all raring to go, and they are just focused on putting up a good show. So I am very thankful to the US Department for Defence for supporting this and I want to thank Secretary Esper personally because I issued an invitation for them to perform in the Airshow when I met them last year.

For the PLAAF, the People's Liberation Army Air Force, I had visited China last year and signed the enhanced Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Cooperation. At that time, I invited them both, Vice Chairman Xu QiLiang and General Wei Fenghe for the Ba Yi, the famous Ba Yi to perform in the Airshow. And the reason being that, this year is the 30th year of diplomatic ties and we thought that would be a good way to commemorate the 30th anniversary.

Of course, all these invitations were issued last year and over the last month, China especially, us too and even US has cases of 2019-nCoV. But for the PLAAF, they had taken extra precautions for everyone, every member of the delegation that meet our criteria to make sure that they are healthy, well and they have passed all health checks. So I am very happy that they are here and that they put in so much effort. Again, it is a measure of how strong our relationship is. And you know, this phrase, good friends stick through thick and thin, and I want to thank both the US as well as the Chinese military for being with us in this Airshow.

Question: Minister, of course there is still public concern about the restrictions imposed on travellers from China. Maybe you can elaborate a bit on the exceptions that were given specifically?

Dr Ng: I think it is natural to be concerned. They are just as concerned as us, because we have cases here. In fact, when just like other pandemics, whether it is SARS or H1N1, once it goes into the community, you can get it from anywhere. But we had been very careful and PLA had been particularly careful that they observe all requirements that were needed to be healthy and they underwent stringent tests. So I am very thankful for that. In fact, they told me that both Vice Chairman Xu Qiliang and General Wei Fenghe fully supported their presence here and like all militaries, they took in military discipline. We have got to understand that they are, just like the SAF, are also concerned about the virus spreading within their own ranks. Like the SAF, we are making preparations to make sure that if there is an outbreak, we can either prevent or limit the outbreak, limit the extent of the outbreak even within our military troops because if you have a situation where your military troops are sick, you have an issue about national defence so they have taken the necessary precautions and health checks and I was happy to meet them and I told them to focus on the show. It is a high manoeuvre, high speed and to be strong, to be focused and I think they will put up a good show.

Question: Minister, then about the first time that the Singapore public will get to see the F-35B up in the air, how significant is this moment?

Dr Ng: It is the first time they are flying in our airspace, so the F-35Bs, these are the same birds that we put in the request for Congress. If there are no objections from Congress, then we can put up the orders. Of course, it is slightly jumping the gun, because even if it is approved, it will be a number of years before the F-35s first... We get them to train in the US, and then we bring them back to Singapore. But at least for this coming week, Singaporeans can get to see the F-35s in the air. They are starting to practice today, and those who are around the East side of the island will be able to see them in the sky.

Thank you.

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