Calls for Australia to help smooth tensions with China
Australia will join forces with Singapore in a bid to boost regional security as it moves to reassure its neighbour over gas supply.
Defence Minister Richard Marles says Australia will continue to ensure Singapore's energy stocks via gas exports.
Energy was a key part of the countries' relationship following concerns about Australian gas reliability, he said on Monday, after a large Japanese exporter accused the government of quietly quitting the market due to new climate and energy legislation.
"It's a really central part of the bilateral relationship. Australia supplies a significant proportion of Singapore's energy. It's unremarkable to say that is a relationship which is beneficial to both countries," Mr Marles said.
"We value that part of it which provides the energy security to Singapore and we value being a reliable supplier of gas going forward."
Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was also forthright in his support of Australia's plan to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, which has caused some unease in Southeast Asia due to concerns of heightened tensions with China.
Dr Balakrishnan said he had no reason to doubt Australia's assurances it would be fully compliant with nuclear non-proliferation regimes.
"As long as AUKUS contributes constructively to regional peace and stability, it's a good thing," he said.
Dr Balakrishnan said Australia has a role to play in cooling tensions in the region by building "strategic trust", adding that Asian nations did not want to be drawn into choosing sides between Washington and Beijing.
"Trust is not something you can conjure. It takes time, it takes history. You need to have mutual respect," he said.
"Australia can play a role in stabilising our region. Australia has many unique strengths."
Dr Balakrishnan said Taiwan was the greatest flashpoint for conflict, with it being "the reddest of red lines" for China.
He hoped lines of communication remained open and the level of conflict or escalation in the South China Sea and the broader region lowered.
"For Australia and Singapore, the relationship between the United States and China is absolutely vital," he said.
"Both the United States and China have a stake in our success and prosperity.
"Having said that, we also recognise that we do not control the agenda in Washington and Beijing."
Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said Australia could play a bigger role in securing regional security, including through the ASEAN forum.
"We will welcome Australian ships and planes to our bases. Ultimately, when your submarines are ready, we would welcome them to ... our ports," he said.
As Trade Minister Don Farrell prepares to head to China amid hopes for a breakthrough in the trade relationship, Singaporean counterpart Gan Kim Yong said it was important nations followed global trading rules.
Canberra agreed to temporarily halt a World Trade Organisation case against Beijing's imposed tariffs on barley in exchange for China undertaking an expedited review of their imposition.
Mr Yong said Singapore joining the dispute as a third party outlined its interest in strengthening the dispute resolution mechanism.