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Five Power Defence Arrangement Allies To Step Up Complex Military Drills In Asia

New Zealand's Defence Minister Judith Collins, Malaysia's Defence Minister Dato’ Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles, and Britain’s Director General (Security Policy) Paul Wyatt attend the Shangri-La Dialogue for the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) Defence Ministers’ Joint Press Conference Meeting (FDMM) in Singapore May 31, 2024. REUTERS/Caroline Chia

Members of the seven-decade old Five Power Defence Arrangement, Australia, Britain, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore have agreed to stage more complex military drills in the region this year involving drones, fifth-generation fighter planes and surveillance aircraft.

The announcement on Friday by defence ministers from members of the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue defence meeting in Singapore comes as the tempo of military exercises in Asia increases along with tensions between global powers.

“We are increasing the assets that we are bringing to bear in exercises so (at) Bersama Lima later this year, for the first time, Australia will be contributing F-35 Joint Strike Fighters,” said Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles.

Bersama Lima, “Five Together” in the Malay language, is an annual military exercise held by the five powers. It was held last year in Malaysia.

Marles said running more complicated exercises were an example of increasing ambition in the agenda of the FPDA. New Zealand’s Defence Minister Judith Collins said a P-8 Poseidon would be deployed to Singapore for the first time as part of the drills.

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The P-8 aircraft is the premier U.S. submarine hunter-tracker and is increasingly deployed in the region against China’s submarine patrols.

Singapore is close to important submarine channels in Indonesia linking the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Marles said the FPDA was “not about China” but rather about “our desire to work closely together”. Malaysian Defence
Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin said this year’s exercises would involve drones, among other “non-conventional” elements.

British representative Paul Wyatt, director general for security policy, said Britain planned sending an aircraft carrier to the region in 2025 and had discussed how the tour might fit with the FPDA’s exercise programme.