Washington - The special relationship between Singapore and the United States has been formalised in the strategic framework agreement (SFA). The agreement recognises Singapore's role as a "major security cooperation partner" and will expand the scope of bilateral cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, joint military exercises and training, policy dialogues and defence technology.
The SFA was signed by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and US President George W Bush at the White House on July 12.
Two other agreements were also signed by Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean and his American counterpart Donald Rumsfeld. The Defence Cooperation Agreement provides for an annual strategic dialogue and more collaboration in defence research and technology. The two sides also agreed to update the 1990 memorandum of understanding which provides the US with access to Singapore's military facilities.
According to Mr Teo, the SFA provides the US "with the means to remain engaged in the region".
"By working on issues which also have an impact on regional security such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, and cooperation in other areas, such as humanitarian relief and so forth, we believe that the SFA will contribute to the promotion of regional security," he said.
As a major security cooperation partner, Singapore is "more than friends but we're not allies of US".
"It means that we actually do many things together. We're not automatically obliged - as allies are - to come to each other's mutual defence. But we do cooperate as partners in many areas," Mr Teo added.
According to The Straits Times, the SFA was cautiously welcomed by Malaysia and Indonesia. Foreign ministry spokesmen in both countries said Singapore had a right to pick its own security partner.
However, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Singapore should also take into account the regional security environment and standing pacts with other Asean members.
"It has to be looked at from the points of view of Zopfan (Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality ) and SEANFWZ (Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone) because Asean wants an area of peace and stability," Mr Syed Hamid said.
* Cautious welcome for US-Spore pact (The Straits Times, July 14)
* Singapore, US deepen security partnership (The Straits Times, July 13)