Singapore is reportedly planning to invest US$1.7 billion to expand its military bases in Australia as China demonstrates its military strength in the South China Sea. Both countries are said to have also agreed to develop military training areas and facilities in Australia.

Military bases at Townsville and Shoalwater Bay will be upgraded under the terms of the deal.

S Rajaratnam School of International Studies security expert Richard Bitzinger was quoted by Reuters as saying: “The kind of military relationships [Singapore] has, and [the] types of military ties that they are developing and deepening, they don’t have with China.

“I am not saying that this is being done overtly to deal with China, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that isn’t a major driver behind this.”

The deal will also improve visa conditions for Australian workers in Singapore, ABC reported.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying: “Our economies will become more integrated and intertwined. Defence cooperation will be stepped up. The Singapore armed forces will be able to do more military training in Australia.”

Singapore has increased its spending on new warplanes, attack submarines, patrol ships and helicopters from US$8.0 billion in 2011 to US$10.7 billion in a period of five years, according to the Wall Street Journal.