asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his recent visit to the far east.
The main aims of my visit to south-east Asia, which took place from 23 March to 1 April, were to reaffirm the United Kingdom's interest in the stability and security of the area, as exemplified by our support for ASEAN and our membership of the five power defence arrangements; to discuss defence matters of mutual interest; and to support sales of British defence equipment.In Thailand, which I visited from 23–25 March, I had useful discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Defence, the Supreme Commander of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, and with the Commanders-in-Chief. I also paid visits to the war cemetery at Kanchanaburi, where I laid a wreath in memory of those who died in the construction of the Burma-Siam Railway in 1942–43, and to the Kwai River bridge.In Brunei (25–27 March), I had an audience with His Majesty The Sultan and useful discussions with the Deputy Minister of Defence and the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs. I also visited units of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and the British battalion currently stationed in Brunei, the 7th Gurkha Rifles.In Malaysia (27–30 March) I had valuable talks with the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence and the Deputy Minister of Defence. Finally, in Singapore (30 March–1 April), I had constructive discussions with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, and the Minister for Trade and Industry; I visited units of the Republic of Singapore Armed Forces and a number of defence companies, including the British-owned Avimo (Singapore) Pte Ltd, whose new factory I opened; and I laid a wreath at Kranji War Cemetery in honour of those who are buried and commemorated there.In all four countries, discussions were cordial and friendly, and I was able to build on the already close and constructive defence relationship that exists between the United Kingdom and a part of the world whose stability and security remain of importance both to this country and to the West in general.