British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Daring is docked Jan. 24 during a three-day visit to Malaysia. The UK may be expanding its Asia-Pacific presence. (Agence France-Presse)
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SINGAPORE — A senior defense official forecasts a stronger UK presence in the Asia-Pacific over coming years as the region rebalances with the economic and military growth of China and India.
David Hatcher, regional director for Asia, the Americas and Australasia with the United Kingdom’s Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation, said that the UK was taking a much closer interest in the region.
“We know that our security as a trading nation and our stability and prosperity all depend on security and stability around the world and Asia-Pacific is a key area,” he said at the close of last week’s Singapore Airshow. “We wish to contribute to its security, stability and prosperity.”
Hatcher said that the United Kingdom would continue to be active within the Five Powers Defence Arrangements (FPDA), signed by the UK, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zeland in 1971.
“We recognize the United Kingdom is a serious country with a very big economy and a very big defense budget. We are a P5 [UN Security Council] member and we are listened to and we believe we should act accordingly. And that means being present in important regions,” he said.
“Yes, that means there will be more trade missions, there will be more ministerial visits and there will be more armed forces visits of one kind or another. We are out there and we’re back to stay. We find that most people welcome that.”
With regard to the rise of China as an economic and military power, Hatcher said the world needs to accept that changes are coming.
“Some people’s attitude is that China needs to be contained, which really is a 19th century colonial attitude and is not the right approach,” he explained.
“The right approach is to understand that times are changing; and it is not just China, India is also becoming a much more meaningful power, with a large population and a growing economy and we need to be aware of this and work with them.”
From a trade perspective, Hatcher was at the Singapore Airshow to forge closer ties with the Singapore government and local industry.
“With Singapore, we know we are dealing with a very discerning, very discriminating and very demanding customer and partner,” he said.
“I have been trying to identify, for the benefit of the UK and Singapore governments and our industries, where we can co-ordinate and work in parallel together to our mutual benefit.”
From a US perspective, the newly appointed US ambassador to Singapore, Kirk Wagar, said that the large US presence at the airshow was an example of President Obama’s pivot to Asia strategy.
“We really want to let everyone here know how much our whole of government business and private sector is here to stay,” he told reporters just before the show began.
“Our job as an Embassy and as a government is to support our American businesses here and work to forge even closer ties with the region. It’s good for us, it’s good for the countries that we work with and I’m excited to be a part of it.”