IBTimes UK

Australia and Singapore have agreed a deal to jointly develop military training facilities in Australia in order to expand the defence cooperation between the two countries and improve economic ties.

The move to forge closer military ties is taken at a time when there are rising tensions between much of Asia and China regarding the disputed South China Sea.

Reuters reported earlier that Singapore will spend A$2.25 billion (US$1.7 billion) for the expansion of military training facilities in Australia, citing a government source.

Singapore had long sent troops to Australia for military exercises but this new deal would allow them to strengthen their power and also to increase the number of troops they have on rotation in Australia.

As per the agreement, Singapore will be funding the cost of expanding both the Shoal water Bay Training Area and the Townsville Field Training Area in the north of Queensland State.

The timing of this agreement is believed to be of political importance to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ahead of an anticipated federal election in July.

According to Reuters, the city-state's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that over a period of 25 years, Singapore will have enhanced and expanded military training access in Australia.

He also added that both the countries will enhance the military personnel exchanges and initiate civilian personal exchanges. They are also expected to strengthen intelligence and information sharing such as counter-terrorism.

Apart from the South China Sea dispute, both the regions are also in target of the Islamic extremists, which can be another reason for this agreement. Earlier this week, eight Bangladeshis were detained in Singapore who were planning attacks. Five others were arrested by the police in Bangladesh.

The city-state and Australia also updated a free trade agreement including improved access for businesses in order to bid for government procurement contracts and for easier communication between the two markets.

Currently, Singapore is the fifth largest trading and investment partner of Australia.