Armament aid for Singapore: Scholz christens two submarines in Kiel

Armaments aid for Singapore
Scholz christens two submarines in Kiel

Asia is more than China. The Federal Government intends to express this more in the future. In line with the new doctrine, Chancellor Scholz is christening two submarines that Singapore bought from Thyssenkrupp.

With the delivery of two more submarines, Germany is strengthening its strategic partnership with the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attended the christening of the two 70-metre-long boats at the Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) shipyard in Kiel. They are among the largest submarines built in Germany since World War II. Scholz called the arms aid for the small but rich Asian partner country “a clear signal”. Germany is thus taking responsibility for Singapore’s security. “You can rely on us.” The Chancellor emphasized that arms exports help secure one of the world’s most important trade routes. Much of global trade passes through the Singapore Strait, which lies at the southwestern end of the South China Sea.

The South China Sea is considered the most dangerous potential conflict spot in the Indo-Pacific region. There, China is at war with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines over islands, reefs and sea areas. The island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own, also lies on the north-eastern edge of the South China Sea. “Security and stability in the Indo-Pacific, too, ensure that the international order as a whole can be maintained,” emphasized Scholz. “They are a protection against imperialism and warmongering.”

Germany has been trying for a number of years to broaden relations with the region and to become involved militarily there. Last year, a Bundeswehr warship was sent to the region for the first time. This year, the German Air Force took part in a maneuver in Australia with six Eurofighter fighter jets and seven transport and tanker aircraft.

Partnership with Singapore also has to do with China

In November, Scholz visited Vietnam and Singapore ahead of the G20 summit in Indonesia to show that for Germany, Asia is more than just China. The federal government wants to reduce economic dependence on China at all costs so as not to end up in a situation similar to that with Russia and the gas supply. “Diversification of trade relationships and supply chains – that’s the order of the day,” emphasized Scholz in Kiel. He named Singapore an important strategic partner for Germany’s security policy.

The two boats were christened “Impeccable” (impeccable) and “Illustrious” (sublime). Singapore has bought a total of four Type 218SG submarines from Kiel. In February 2019, the “Invincible” (invincible) was the first of them to be christened in Kiel. According to dpa information, they have a fuel cell drive. They are designed for a crew of 28 men and women. The value of the four boats together should be in the billions. TKMS boss Oliver Burkhard said they were “the largest submarines we have ever built”. The Chancellor’s visit was two things for the shipyard: “a strong signal and an important symbol”.

Arms exports are no longer a “dirty topic”.

It is actually extremely unusual for a chancellor to be present to acknowledge a major commercial arms export to a so-called third country outside of the EU and NATO. For a long time, arms exports were seen as a “sleazy topic” with which one could only lose politically. That too seems to have changed with the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and the “turning point” in security and defense policy proclaimed by Scholz. Scholz and Lee Hsien Loong met in Kiel in the morning for a conversation and then went to the shipyard in a water police coaster. The Prime Minister spoke of good and growing relations with Germany. The four boats ordered from TKMS are the first new submarines in the local navy. The boats are built in Germany, “but uniquely Singapore”.

TKMS has more than 3,100 employees at the Kiel location alone; according to the company, there are a good 7,000 worldwide with annual sales of around two billion euros. According to its own statements, the shipyard is the world market leader in conventional submarines and in surface naval shipbuilding. By 2023, she wants to expand the shipyard in Kiel for 250 million euros and expand the production capacities with a new hangar and its own fuel cell production. TKMS is working at capacity until the 2030s – open order value 14 billion euros. This is one of the reasons why she bought the shipyard in Wismar after the insolvency of the MV Werften Group and wants to build military ships there in the future.

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