Country Listing

Singapore Table of Contents


Historical Development

Until Singapore's separation from Malaysia in August 1965, responsibility for national security matters had always resided either in London or Kuala Lumpur. In the two decades following the end of World War II (1939-45), Britain spent billions of dollars to rebuild its military bases in Singapore in order to honor its defense commitments to Malaysia and Singapore. Between 1963 and 1966, several thousand British troops were deployed to protect the two countries during the Indonesian Confrontation ( Konfrontasi--see Glossary). By 1967 the British Labour and Conservative parties had reached a consensus that Britain could no longer afford to pay the cost of maintaining a military presence in Southeast Asia. In January 1968, London informed the Singapore government that all British forces would be withdrawn by 1971, ending 152 years of responsibility for the defense of Singapore.

After the 1963 merger of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak to form the Federation of Malaysia, Singapore ceded control over its armed forces to the federal government in Kuala Lumpur. For a time, Malaysian army and air force units were stationed in Singapore, and Lee Kuan Yew's refusal to allow Malaysia to retain control over Singapore's military establishment after separation was one reason political relations between the two nations remained strained well into the 1970s.

Data as of December 1989