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Singapore joins U.S.-led security initiative

By P. S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE, JAN. 12. Singapore today announced its participation, "for the first time," in a "maritime interdiction exercise" under the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). Several European countries and Australia and Japan are members of the initiative that Washington has devised for `non-proliferation' purposes.

Washington's objective is to prevent the transfer of either weapons of mass destruction or their components and related know-how from any state to another country or even to non-state players, outside the framework of the activities of the nuclear suppliers group.

The agenda covers interdiction of vessels carrying the suspect cargo across the high seas or surreptitiously within the territorial waters of the member-states with a largely informal networking.

Plans are also under way to cover the interception and seizure of `proliferation-related' cargo that might be transported by air and over land.

The PSI's original participants are Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the U.K. and the United States.

These 11 are being joined by Canada, Denmark, Norway and Turkey besides Singapore.

The stated modus operandi is to work together within the frameworks of national laws of the PSI member-states as also the wider international law.

Without reference to the debate in certain international circles on the PSI's locus, Singapore said its landing ship-tank, RSS Endurance, and the crew, "who had just completed their mission in support of the reconstruction efforts in Iraq," would participate in the PSI-related "maritime interdiction exercise" in the Arabian Sea area from January 11-17.

For this exercise, a U.S. combat stores ship would `simulate' the activities of a "rogue vessel" laden with weapons of mass destruction-related material.

The other participating vessels would gather `intelligence' on it, board it to `search' for the WMD-related material and prevent the ship from journeying further.

The Singapore Deputy Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, had hinted at the City State's association with the PSI in an interview to a few days ago.

He mentioned the City State's "cooperation with the U.S. on tracking proscribed materials" among the activities that the two were engaged in doing together.

On the wider aspects of the strategic ties with the U.S., Mr. Lee said: "We are an independent player. We make our own calculations and we represent our own interests.

"And the more we are able to do that, in fact, I think, the more valuable we are as a partner than (if) we were just part of the Sheriff' posse, if I may use a metaphor."

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