Singapore offers tanker aircraft for Afghanistan evacuation
US Vice-President Kamala Harris thanks PM Lee for the offer to assist US efforts in ongoing crisis
Singapore will offer the United States the use of its tanker and transporter aircraft to help evacuate refugees from Afghanistan, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday, with the Republic ready to play its part in addressing the ongoing crisis there.
He was speaking at a joint press conference at the Istana with visiting US Vice-President Kamala Harris, who thanked him for the offer to assist the US in its evacuations from Afghanistan.
Both leaders hailed the robust and enduring partnership between their two countries and took stock of bilateral ties.
They also announced plans to deepen cooperation in cyber security with the signing of three agreements, and to collaborate more closely on climate action through a new climate partnership.
Both countries are also working to strengthen trade and investment links, including in the digital economy, as well as to combat pandemics.
“The Vice-President’s visit... emphasises the US administration’s commitment to this region. It shows that the US has both strategic and economic stakes in South-east Asia,” said PM Lee.
“I am confident that our longstanding and multi-faceted bilateral relationship will continue to strengthen year by year.”
Ms Harris, who also called on President Halimah Yacob, said: “Our administration is committed to our enduring engagement in Singapore and to South-east Asia and the Indo-Pacific. And I look forward, Prime Minister, to continuing and strengthening our relationship for years to come.”
She added: “We will continue to partner in a way that benefits not only Singaporeans and Americans, but the rest of the world.”
Ms Harris’ visit comes as Singapore and the US mark 55 years of diplomatic ties, anchored by strong economic as well as security relationships.
Singapore’s offer of the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport to help with evacuation efforts comes after the Taleban took control of the Afghan capital Kabul on Aug 15, and as the US is helping evacuate those whose lives may be in danger under the new regime.
The aircraft, which attained full operational capability in April, enhances the Singapore Armed Forces’ ability to contribute to international humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.
Asked about the situation in Afghanistan, PM Lee said the safety and security of civilians is on the minds of everyone all over the world, and he hopes all sides there can work to ensure this.
He noted that Singapore is not unfamiliar with the challenges.
The Singapore Armed Forces has deployed personnel in support of the International Security Assistance Force – an international military mission in Afghanistan that trained the Afghan National Security Forces and assisted the country in rebuilding key government institutions.
Singapore has sent personnel to Afghanistan because it is a key battlefront in the global fight against extremist terrorism, said PM Lee, noting that extremist ideas and capabilities have been exported from there to this region, and pose a security threat to Singapore, too.
PM Lee said the US intervention had stopped terror groups from using the country as a safe base for 20 years.
“For this, Singapore is grateful. We hope Afghanistan does not become an epicentre for terrorism again,” he said.