Brunei, US eye defence partnership
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
BRUNEI and the United States are eyeing a state partnership programme (SPP) that would link the sultanate’s military with the American National Guard in a move to boost security cooperation.
Major General Mark Dillon, vice commander of the US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), said Brunei expressed interest in joining the programme as both sides seek closer engagement towards addressing security challenges in line with Washington’s rebalance in Asia.
“We’re working on trying to facilitate that as partnerships are vitally important to us,” he said in a recent briefing at the PACAF Headquarters in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii.
It is unclear how soon Brunei will be involved in the SPP, but the commander said ASEAN member states Malaysia and Laos were also keen to participate.
Over 70 partnerships have been developed worldwide including Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
“PACAF are very interested in bolstering our defence ties with the militaries of ASEAN nations. We would like to see our relationship with ASEAN continue to grow,” said Major Dillon.
Highlighting ASEAN’s strategic importance to American and PACAF interests, he said the 10-nation bloc is central to US foreign policy as member states play a critical role in establishing a rules-based order in the region.
The vice commander pointed out the SPP, managed by the National Guard, is one of the US Department of Defense’s initiatives to strengthen joint security cooperation globally.
On its website, the National Guard said the SPP “builds enduring personal and institutional relationships through consistent engagement, offering an expandable engagement approach including senior leader visits and co-deployments”.
Under the programme, guard members work with partner militaries to strengthen shared defences through capacity building activities. Typical SPP activities range from disaster preparedness and crisis management to aviation logistics, maintenance and safety as well as defence reform and military modernisation.
Dillon estimated that PACAF takes part in about 200 partner engagements annually. “Those range from small subject matter (and) expert exchanges involving a handful of airmen up to large-scale exercises of between 10,000 to 20,000 airmen from different countries.”
The Brunei Times