Canada wants Singapore hub as US shifts military focus

SINGAPORE, June 3: Singapore said today it was studying a proposal from Canada to set up a logistics facility in the city-state for disaster relief efforts, reportedly to support a US military shift to Asia.
Canadian Defence Minister Peter Gordon MacKay said in an interview with The Canadian Press that the proposal was part of Ottawa’s efforts to back up the US military “pivot” towards the Asia-Pacific region, which has irked China.
“The Canadians have proposed setting up a logistics support hub in Singapore for their regional humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts,” a spokesman for the Singapore foreign ministry told AFP.
“We are currently studying their proposal,” he said, giving no further details.
MacKay was quoted as saying that the proposed deal with Singapore would resemble arrangements Canada has with Kuwait and Jamaica, which has given the country military footholds in the Middle East and the Caribbean.
MacKay is in Singapore along with other defence chiefs to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security conference that ends on Sunday.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the conference on Saturday that Washington will shift the bulk of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020 as part of its new strategic focus on Asia, amid China’s rising influence.
The Pentagon already plans to start rotating “littoral combat ships”—small vessels intended for operations close to shore—through a base in Singapore, a long-standing ally of the United States.
Speaking at the conference Sunday, MacKay did not directly refer to the proposal but stressed the need for greater global cooperation in disaster relief efforts.
He recalled that Canadian troops were among the international forces involved in the massive relief operation that followed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed an estimated 220,000 people.
Learning lessons from that disaster, Canadian forces were quicker to respond when a major earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, carrying more supplies with their C-17 military transport planes, MacKay said.
“We realise how critical connectivity with all of our partners, friends and allies remains to ensuring that we can coordinate responses more quickly,” he said.
The Asian Development Bank in March said climate-related disasters had displaced more than 42 million people in Asia over the past two years.
The Asia-Pacific “is the global area most prone to natural disasters, both in terms of the absolute number of disasters and of populations affected”, it said in a report. (Agencies)