• Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey engages with top defence officials in Australia, Fiji, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, and Singapore.

London, UK. 30 July 2023. The UK has strengthened its defence ties with key partners in the Indo-Pacific following the visit of a senior defence minister, demonstrating our commitment to the security and stability of the region as the UK Armed Forces carry out joint exercises in the area.

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey visited Australia, Fiji, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore, as part of a regional engagement plan to demonstrate the UK’s continued commitment across Asia and the Pacific.

The Minister’s visit coincided with a large-scale deployment of over 150 members of the Royal Marines, Army and RAF for the Australian-led Exercise Talisman Sabre. This is the largest training activity between Australian, UK and US Armed Forces and ensures interoperability in regional operations. In addition, UK forces are also deployed on Exercise Mobility Guardian, which saw an RAF A400M conduct its longest ever flight of twenty-two hours from RAF Brize Norton to Guam, demonstrating the UK’s ability to deploy into the region.

The UK’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region was reaffirmed in the recently published Integrated Review Refresh and Defence Command Paper Refresh (DCPR). The DCPR confirmed the continued deployment of the Royal Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels HMS SPEY and HMS TAMAR, which have been deployed in the region since leaving the UK in September 2021. The UK’s persistent maritime presence is only set to be increased with visits from Commando Force Littoral Response Group later this year, and the Carrier Strike Group which will return in 2025, building on its maiden voyage in 2021.

Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, said:
The UK is committed to strengthening our existing partnerships with friends and allies in the region, towards maintaining peace and protecting the rules based international order.

During my meetings with defence ministers, military chiefs and senior government officials across the region, I reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to playing a full and active role in ensuring a free, safe and open Indo-Pacific.

The Minister first visited Singapore where he met his counterpart, Deputy Defence Minister Zaqy Mohamad, to discuss ongoing defence cooperation, the UK’s Defence Command Paper Refresh and lessons learnt from Russia’s war against Ukraine.

In a subsequent visit to Fiji, Minister Heappey met Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and thanked him for Fiji’s continued contribution of service personnel to the UK Armed Forces and discussed the UK and Fiji’s work to tackle maritime security threats in the South Pacific and support for UN peacekeeping missions.

In Australia, Minister Heappey met with Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, the defence ministerial team, chiefs and senior officials to discuss the UK’s security ties with Australia – including Five Eyes and AUKUS – and the direct link between security in the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions. The Minister also met the crews of the ships maintaining the UK’s persistent presence.

This was followed by a visit to Malaysia where Minister Heappey met the Minister of Defence, Mohammad Haji Hasan, to strengthen our bilateral defence partnership, in addition to the UK’s continued contribution to the Five Powers Defence Agreement.

The trip culminated with a visit to the Republic of Korea, where Minister Heappey represented the UK at national commemoration events for the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice. The Minister laid a wreath at the Battle of Imjin Memorial, also known as the Gloster Hill Memorial, in memory of personnel from The Gloucestershire Regiment who died in one of the conflict’s deadliest battles. He accompanied 11 British Korean War Veterans and four who served in Korea following the War, at national commemorative events.