China and Singapore conduct joint naval exercise in South China Sea to ‘address risks’
Published: Feb 25, 2021 11:20 PM

An aerial photo of the South China Sea. File photo: Xinhua

The joint military drill between China and Singapore in the South China Sea shows the two countries are jointly addressing risks and challenges with the determination to safeguard regional peace and stability, Chinese military researchers said. 

A group of Chinese naval ships participated in a joint naval exercise with the Singapore Navy in the waters near Singapore, Chinese state media reported Thursday.  

The Singapore Defense Ministry said on the same day that the Singapore and Chinese navies conducted the joint exercise in the international waters at the southern tip of the South China Sea. The purpose of the exercise is to enhance mutual understanding and deepen friendship amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Chinese media said the guided-missile destroyer Guiyang and guided-missile frigate Zaozhuang, part of the 36th Escort Taskforce, participated in the joint maritime exercise. The Singaporean ships include the Formidable-class stealth frigate, RSS Intrepid, and the Independence-class littoral mission vessel, RSS Sovereignty.

The exercise mainly included communication operations, formation movements and joint search and rescue.

Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, told the Global Times on Thursday that the joint exercise has strengthened the friendly interactions between the navies of China and Singapore, promoted mutual understanding, enhanced trust, and laid a good foundation for further strengthening maritime security cooperation. It is also conducive to maintaining regional security and stability.

An important subject of this exercise is joint search and rescue, which is of great practical significance, Zhang said, pointing out that the South China Sea is an important international shipping route with up to 100,000 ships from various countries passing through it every year. 

"At the same time, the hydrology and meteorology of the South China Sea are relatively complex and natural disasters and accidents occur constantly. Military forces of all countries have the responsibility to undertake search and rescue operations at sea," Zhang said. "If there is a maritime disaster in the South China Sea in the future, the navies of China and Singapore can jointly conduct maritime search and rescue operations to protect the lives and property of people of all countries and maintain safe navigation in the South China Sea."

At the same time, the British and the French navies will send warships to the South China Sea to prove the so-called "freedom of navigation," which Zhang said aims to "show muscle, brush presence, and stir troubles in the region to expand their influence."

Obviously, such self-serving and provocative actions by a few countries outside the region are unpopular. Countries within the region have openly opposed them and will not follow those actions, Zhang said.