Post 1 of 2 1. ASEAN member states seek to engage with China but not as vassal states. Unfortunately, China's vessels have a track record of operating as maritime harassment vessels (and documented by Geoffrey Till in the 2012, "Asia’s Naval Expansion. An Arms Race in the Making?" and Bernard Cole’s 2013 "Asian Maritime Strategies: Navigating Troubled Waters"), to be used against the US or ASEAN claimants in the South China Sea (SCS), namely, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam. In particular, the Philippines and Vietnam have been targets of China's displeasure. Like the US, ASEAN itself is not a party to the maritime disputes in the South China Sea. ASEAN member states (see these comments on ASEAN by Tim Huxley for details):- (i) are finding a way to move on to manage the issue with China (including the crucial task of keeping the lines of communications open between China and ASEAN member states). Most ASEAN members seek to improve their relationship with the US and China at the same time with some more beholden to aid from one side; and (ii) have given voice to concerns at numerous international events, to assist member states in voicing its concerns. 2. Singapore as a member of ASEAN is not a claimant state and takes no position on the merits or otherwise of the various claims in the SCS. But as a trading nation, Singapore (like Australia, NZ, UK, France, South Korea, Japan, and India) have an interest in freedom of navigation in all international sea lanes, including those in the SCS. The biggest change being India's active support (see: U.S., Japan, India and Philippines challenge Beijing with naval drills in the South China Sea - Reuters). 3. In the 2014 to 2016 time frame, a few of us looked forward to 2030 and I even offered a 15 year perspective (till 2026) on SCS developments. What I saw and predicted then, may not hold true today (round 2: 2017 to 2021). It looks like China's emerging military capability development and island building efforts in the SCS exceeded all prior expectations. Further, FPDA as an organisation is increasing lacking in relevance to matters relating to the South China Sea, as UK is engrossed with Brexit and Malaysia has engaged in acts of renewed hostility directed at Singapore and managing this troubled peace, is all that can be hoped for in 2019 to 2021. Dr M said that although Malaysia is a member of the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA), with the five countries deciding to work together, it does not mean that Malaysia has to follow their policies. "We can have our own (defence) policies," he said. Dr Mahathir also said that he would not like to have foreign countries having a military base in Malaysia. "We want to be free from any involvement of other countries," he said (Read more at Dr M: Malaysia wants to be independent, does not want military alliances - Nation | The Star Online). However, Australia and Singapore as FDPA members have enhanced their bilateral cooperation levels since then and are increasing in lock-step in their common approach to emerging regional security issues (see: The lion and the kangaroo: Australia’s strategic partnership with Singapore). 4. For background, one year ago in May 2018, Singaporeans wished our Malaysian friends well, as they held their general election that ushered an new government. Instead of the two countries working together, Malaysia’s government under Dr Mahathir, often as a hostile party, sought to start new quarrels or renegotiate every deal made on better terms. We in Singapore can only hope this hostility can be managed. With regard to our relations with Malaysia, Singapore’s Defence Minister spoke once and then he refrained from openly making a further public stand. That said, we have to let actions speak for itself rather than issue statements. Take note of the fact that Singapore's defence budget has increased, in response to an urgent need to recapitalise certain categories of ageing defence assets - such as the retirement or upcoming end of life of the following: (a) the retirement of the 11 Fearless Class Patrol Vessels (replaced with 8 LMVs), the pending retirement of the Challenger and Archer classes of submarines (replaced with 4 Type 218SG submarines) and the planned replacement of the 6 Victory Class Corvettes (to be replaced with the 5,000 ton MRCV), (b) the retirement of the F-5s (replaced with the acquisition of a 2nd squadron of F-15SGs and 4 F-35s for testing), (c) the retirement of the 4 KC-135R (replaced with six A-330 MRTT), and the Searcher UAVs (replaced with the Heron-1 and Hermes 450 UAVs), (d) the retirement of the older suite of air defence radars, including the FPS-117A (replaced by the ELM-2084 Multi Mission Radar, the existing Giraffe AMB, the SHIKRA radar and the Ticom 55 aerostat); which will provide a extremely high resolution air picture for Singapore's air defenders, (e) the retirement of older ground based air defence missiles, like I-Hawk missiles (replaced with the Spyder air defence missile firing units and the ASTER 30), (f) the retirement of the fleet of V-200s (replaced with the Protected Response Vehicle) and the 5 tonners (replaced with the Belrex Protected Combat Support Vehicle to support the Terrex motorised infantry battalions), (g) the retirement of old AEVs, ARVs and VLBs like the M728 AEVs (replaced with the AEV, known as the Pionierpanzer 3 Kodiak), the old ARVs (replaced with the Buffel Armoured Recovery Vehicle), and the old M60 based VLBs (replaced with the Biber Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge), (h) the phasing out of old land-rover vehicles (slowly being replaced with the Ford Ops Utility Vehicles, the URO VAMTAC and the Ford 550 ambulances), (i) the retirement of older sat com 3 tonner (replaced with the MAN 5 Ton Very Small Aperture SAT Comm), (j) the pending retirement of the two Super Puma squadrons (to be replaced with the H225M) and the Chinook squadron’s CH-47D/SDs (to be replaced with the CH-47F model), and (k) the replacement for the AMX-13S1 and so on (too lazy to list further).