Saturday, 9 January 2016

Singapore-China-US Relations

Update 15 Jul 2017: Right to have good ties with both China, US: PM Lee

Maintaining good relations with both China and the United States is the right position to take, even if some might hope that Singapore would lean towards one country or the other, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Mr Lee, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, last week, noted that Singapore is good friends with both countries.

He was speaking at a dialogue at the FutureChina Global Forum last night, where he was asked questions covering topics from small-state diplomacy to global trade and business opportunities with China.

related: Singapore has broad relationship with China and US

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China Warns 'Small and Medium Size' Countries Not To Side with Big Countries: White Paper
Chinese naval aircraft carriers

A white paper released today by China on Asia-Pacific security cooperation has warned ‘small and medium size countries’ not to take sides in disputes between big countries, without naming the countries in question. The white paper, "China's Policies on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation" was released by the State Council Information Office Wednesday on policies related to Asia-Pacific security cooperation, which also clarified the nation's stance on issues of regional concern.

"Small- and medium-sized countries need not and should not take sides among big countries," according to the white paper, Sina reported Wednesday. All countries should work toward a new dialogue system instead of confrontation, and pursue partnerships rather than alliances, according to the white paper. Outlining China's concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, the white paper explained the Chinese approach to achieving peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

The policy package includes the promotion of common development; the building of partnerships; improvement of existing multilateral frameworks; rule-setting; military exchanges; and proper settlement of differences.

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PM Lee: We are not at odds with China
PM Lee: We are not at odds with China
PM Lee Hsien Loong (left) speaking to the media in Munich, where he was attending the Group of 20 Leaders' Summit. FOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

Singapore has a broad, wide-ranging relationship with both China & the United States, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He was giving his assessment of ties with both powers in an interview with Singapore reporters at the end of a 6-day visit to Germany, where he attended the Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit.

Mr Lee also met Chinese President Xi Jinping & US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the summit.

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Singapore maintains consistent position, even as it recalibrates to remain relevant, says PM Lee
Mr Robin Hu (L) Board of Directors, Business China & PM Lee Hsien Loong (R) speak at Business China's 10 Anniversary & Business China Awards 2017 on 14 July 2017. Foto: Wee Teck Hian / TODAY

The Republic will maintain a consistent position in its dealings with the major powers, even as it periodically re-calibrates policies to remain relevant, PM Lee Hsien Loong has said.

In a broad-ranging dialogue session at the closing of the FutureChina Global Forum on Friday (Jul 14), Mr Lee cited examples of how the government-to-government projects between Singapore and China evolved over the years - from manufacturing to environmental needs to logistics and connectivity - as Beijing’s needs and priorities changed.

“You cannot serve old medicine to a patient who is in a new situation,” Mr Lee told the audience comprising senior officials, business leaders and academics, many of whom are from China or have extensive interests in the mainland. “We work on the basis that the world will progress, countries will prosper and our role will have to change. As they grow more prosperous, capable, and open to the world, what we used to do & what they used to find us useful for will change.”

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Singapore may be small, but we cannot be bullied and we should be proud of that
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping (right) during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov 9, 2014. (AFP via Straits Times)
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) shakes hands with China’s President Xi Jinping (right) during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov 9, 2014. (AFP via Straits Times)

Recently, it would seem that China isn’t too happy with Singapore. A Chinese diplomat has urged Singapore not to interfere in the territorial spat. A Chinese defence advisor has even gone so far as to call for sanctions to make Singapore pay for damaging China’s interests, on top of making remarks like Lee Kuan Yew has lost Beijing’s respect and how we’re playing a dangerous game of playing the big countries against each other.

Some trashy tabloid in China, the Global Times, has been criticising Singapore too. They wrongly claimed that Singapore had tried to push for a stronger statement on the international tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit last week in Venezuela. China users of various social media platforms have been lashing out against Singapore. They say that Singapore is backstabbing China. It would appear that many people in China are asking for their government to “punish” us. The latest is that Singapore businesses are being questioned by their Chinese counterparts about our stand on the matter.

Oh, it’s interesting how Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP) has described the tabloid,

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Chinese diplomat tells Singapore to stay out of South China Sea disputes

A senior Chinese diplomat urged Singapore to stay out of South China Sea disputes at a meeting between China and the Asean bloc of countries.

The remark was made as China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations made progress on Tuesday towards adopting a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea. Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said after the meeting in Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia that China and Asean had agreed to release a joint statement on a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).

However, in a veiled criticism of Singapore’s stance on the disputes, Liu said China hoped the city state would perform well in its role of coordinating dialogue between China and Asean.

“As Singapore is not a claimant in the South China Sea, we hope that the Singapore government, on the condition of not interfering in South China Sea issues, will actively promote cooperation between China and Asean,” Liu said.
related: The South China Sea shadow over Beijing’s ties with Singapore

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Singapore PM offers blunt assessment of US relationship

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong turned heads Tuesday when video of a blunt commentary on his nation's U.S. and China relationships was posted online.

Speaking to the BBC, the normally diplomatic Lee hinted that his country's loyalties to both Beijing and Washington could one day be tested.

"If America, China relations become very difficult, our position becomes tougher because then we will be coerced to choose between being friends with America and being friends with China," he said. "That's a real worry. Right now we are friends with both — it's not that we don't have issues with either, but we are generally friends with both, and the relationships are in good working order."

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Can Singapore be friends with China and everyone else?

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is celebrating its golden jubilee this year. As part of the celebrations, the RSN successfully organised the first International Maritime Review. Forty-six ships had gathered for the fleet review. That included the JS Izumo, a helicopter carrier from Japan.

This prompted an article on a certain website to question how China will react to Japan’s participation in the International Maritime Review. It claimed that Singapore will be “caught in the middle, again”. And that article prompted a response from Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan:

“Why should we not invite any country we want? If one country or another has issues with the other, what has that got to do with us? Must we continually define our national interests in terms of some other country’s interests or subordinate our interests to their interests? If we do so, does that not make us something less than sovereign? Isn’t that precisely what countries closer home want us to be? And why raise this issue in the first place? What agenda is this article promoting? It is based on a fundamental misunderstanding — out of ignorance or deliberate — of what foreign policy is all about!”
Singapore has the luxury of being principled in our foreign policy. While we are not rash in our interactions with other countries, we will not be bullied or intimidated. And thankfully so. Because if we can be bullied or intimidated, what will our immediate neighbours think? That said, we don’t go around picking fights. As long as other nations don’t threaten our long-term national interests, we are more than willing to be friends with them. That is the case with our immediate neighbours. That is the case with USA, Japan, India. And that is definitely the case with China.

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3 myths about Singapore-China ties
Much chatter online & off has taken place on why Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong did not attend the inaugural Belt & Road Forum in Beijing last weekend

The event organised by China had heads of state & government from 29 countries attending, including 7 out of 10 from Asean. Singapore was represented by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

2 schools of thought prevailed: China snubbed Singapore. No, it was Singapore that didn't want to take part.

3 myths floating out there that merit being plucked from the ocean of misinformation & tossed into the incinerator:
  • SINGAPORE HAS CHANGED ITS STANCE ON CHINA AND NOW ALIGNS ITSELF MORE OVERTLY WITH THE UNITED STATES
  • SINGAPORE IS A CHINESE SOCIETY AND SHOULD BE MORE SYMPATHETIC TO CHINA
  • CHINA IS OUT TO PUNISH SINGAPORE, AND SINGAPOREANS SHOULD FEEL WORRIED ABOUT THIS AND PRESSURE THE SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT TO BE MORE ACCOMMODATING OF CHINA

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Singapore risks being left out of the loop on B&R regional integration

Delegates from over 130 countries gathered in Beijing to discuss cooperation, trade and development at the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation recently. Right after the conference ended, it came to light that Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had not been present at the forum. Media speculated that Lee was not invited by China. For seasoned Asia-watchers, it was a watershed moment in regional affairs and marked the end of the era of amicable ties that Lee's father, Lee Kuan Yew, had so painstakingly nurtured with Asia's economic superpower.

What this means is that China no longer regards Singapore as a friend. Despite cordial links with the elder Lee's government, one thing had long irked Beijing: the offer by Singapore of its supremely strategic location to the US for military activities in the region. But other aspects of the relationship were healthy enough that the Chinese overlooked not just that, but even Singapore's military cooperation with Taiwan. Moreover, China understood that Singapore, with no natural resources, needed to keep sound ties with the US in order to survive and prosper. The Chinese readily accepted the island state's policy of political equidistance between China and the US.

Since 2011, however, the Americans have intensified their campaign to contain China, in the guise of its "pivot" to Asia. Simultaneously, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has junked his father's judicious balancing act and turned his country almost into a de facto military base for the US Navy. His words, and those of his ministers, have become increasingly, even enthusiastically, pro-US and China-skeptical, if not outright anti-China.

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China no longer regards Singapore as a friend: pro-Beijing newspaper

Singapore Prime Minister’s absence from the One Belt One Road forum held in China earlier in May is “a watershed moment in regional affairs and marked the end of the era of amicable ties that Lee’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, had so painstakingly nurtured with Asia’s economic superpower.”

This was the view of “seasoned Asia-watchers”, said the pro-Beijing newspaper, The Global Times.

For the uninitiated, The Global Times is regarded as the vehicle whose “messages are a transmission from within the heart of CCP power.”

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5 ways China can sink our economy
Picture

LET'S NOT BEAT around the bush. PM Lee Hsien Loong's absence at the New Silk Road summit currently taking place in China is a big deal.

Was he not invited or did he elect not to attend (and despatched National Development Minister Lawrence Wong instead)? The former seems the more plausible account. Either way, the development can only be described as doomy.

The summit, attended by 28 heads of government, is Beijing's way of announcing its intention of breaking out from under the United State's world domination, at least in the sphere of trade and commerce. Here are are five ways Beijing is doing this:
  • Melaka Gateway
  • East Coast Railway Line (ECRL)
  • New Silk Road
  • Arctic Route
  • Kra Canal

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WHAT BELT AND ROAD SNUB MEANS FOR SINGAPORE’S TIES WITH CHINA
Not invited: Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Photo: AFP
Not invited Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Photo: AFP

China’s decision not to invite Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to last weekend’s Belt and Road Forum highlights the still-strained ties between the two countries, observers say, though officials in the Lion City have tried to shrug off talk of any diplomatic rift.

Of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members, only three countries were not represented by their heads of government at the high-level summit in Beijing: Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. Twenty-nine national leaders and the representatives of 28 other countries attended the two-day meeting to discuss the China-led initiative to rebuild the ancient Silk Road trade route through a network of new ports, railways and roads.

The Singapore delegation was led by national development minister Lawrence Wong. In an interview with travelling Singaporean media, Wong revealed that the invitations were decided by China. It was the first official acknowledgement that Lee was not invited.

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China Snub Sees Singapore Miss Out on Belt-Road Billions
China’s plan for a maritime “Silk Road” to Europe is helping channel funds to Southeast Asia for roads, railways and ports. But amid the deals bonanza, one country risks missing out

Despite strong historical and cultural ties to China, the tiny state of Singapore has found itself in Beijing’s crosshairs, in part for its stance over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. As other Southeast Asian leaders lined up to meet President Xi Jinping at a summit in Beijing this week for his Belt-and-Road Initiative, Singapore was represented by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

China views Singapore as being less supportive of Xi’s plan because unlike other countries that announced their leaders would attend without requiring a formal invitation, Singapore sought an invite, according to people familiar with the matter. They asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information.
“The cooler political relationship between Singapore and China could have ripple effects which influence economic and trade relations,” said Lu Jianren, a researcher at the China-Asean Research Institute at China’s Guangxi University. “Singapore has been less proactive to work with China while many leaders in the region showed greater enthusiasm that they want Beijing to be more involved in Southeast Asian growth.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. “I wouldn’t say we have major problems; we’ve had some issues and some incidents,” Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said of China, in an interview aired by the BBC in March.

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What China’s snub of Singapore means

But while nearly half of the 57 countries were not represented by their heads of government, foreign policy experts said Lee’s absence was conspicuous as it provided clues on the extent of the fallout following a protracted diplomatic spat between the two countries over the past year.

Xue Li, a senior research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences think tank, said China’s decision not to invite the Singaporean leader reflected a growing belief in Beijing that the Lion City sought only economic benefits from China, while “relying on the US for security”.

“China is gradually recognising this and therefore doesn’t really care if the Singapore PM attended or not,” Xue said.

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Singapore May Miss Out on Belt-Road Billions
China Snub Means Singapore May Miss Out on Belt-Road Billions

China’s plan for a maritime “Silk Road” to Europe is helping channel funds to Southeast Asia for roads, railways and ports.

But amid the deals bonanza, one country risks missing out. Despite strong historical and cultural ties to China, the tiny state of Singapore has found itself in Beijing’s crosshairs, in part for its stance over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

As other Southeast Asian leaders lined up to meet President Xi Jinping at a summit in Beijing this week for his Belt-and-Road Initiative, Singapore was represented by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong. China views Singapore as being less supportive of Xi’s plan.

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How China snubbed Singapore at the Belt and Road summit

Among the 29 Heads of State who converged on Beijing for the Belt and Road Summit earlier this week were leaders of seven of the ten ASEAN states. One leader was noticeably missing: Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Various observers have noted this absence, including Hugh White, who suggested it was no co-incidence that, like others - Japan, India, Australia and ‘most western countries’ - who had not sent their national leaders to Beijing, Singapore was aligned with the US and uneasy about China’s rise – ‘or perceived to be so’.

However, it has since emerged that Singapore was never given the choice. China had not invited Singapore’s prime minister in the first place.

This is surprising, especially as Singapore has been one of the biggest advocates of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While many other states were initially hesitant in signing up to BRI, including some of its ASEAN neighbours, Singapore’s support has been unequivocal from the beginning. Many high-level co-operation talks between China and Singapore on the subject have taken place, with both sides warmly welcoming cooperation on BRI.

In light of this past co-operation, Beijing’s snub is significant. It is fair to conclude that, if China continues to freeze out Singapore, there could be significant implications on at least three levels:
  • What it might mean for Sino-Singapore relations
  • Implications for other middle powers
  • Implications for China’s role in the world

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The PM wasn’t invited to Beijing

IT DIDN’T escape notice that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wasn’t at the biggest diplomatic event held in China over the weekend. The guest list was filled with luminaries including his counterparts in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. There were in all 29 heads of state or government. Singapore was represented instead by Minister Lawrence Wong.
Asked why the PM Lee wasn’t there, he said that the invitation was decided by the Chinese.
So on Sunday, PM Lee was giving out flowers to his Ang Mo Kio constituents on the occasion of Mother’s Day, rather than hobnobbing with other leaders over what seemed to be the most ambitious economic project in recent time.

His absence in Beijing is intriguing and only serves to raise questions about whether Singapore and China had papered over their differences since the seizure of Singapore Armed Forces vehicles by Hong Kong authorities in November last year. Or are the Chinese still pissed off at Singapore’s lack of empathy over its position on the South China Sea?

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PM Lee’s absence in B&R forum in Beijing – is China still throwing a tantrum?

The reply by Minister of National Development, Lawrence Wong, was a curious and perhaps a telling one.

When asked by reporters on Tuesday why Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was not attending the Belt and Road forum in Beijing, Mr Wong said “the invitation was decided by the Chinese”, according to the Straits TimesMr Wong did not seem to have elaborated on his answer.

PM Lee’s absence has not gone unnoticed, given how several leaders from Asean countries were among the 29 heads of states who apparently were invited and attended the forum which ran from 14-15 May. Considering that the forum was also an important one, for China especially, the fact that PM Lee was not there is quite curious. After all, Singapore and China share, at least according to official statements, “deep ties’.

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong not invited
The Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo and Malaysia’s Najib Razak in a photo shared on Najib’s Twitter account. Photo: Twitter

According to China state media South China Morning Post (SCMP), the China central government has confirmed that Lee Hsien Loong was deliberately left out of the invitation at the Belt and Road forum.

Of the 10 ASEAN countries, Singapore Prime Minister’s absence is painfully conspicuous because Singapore is supposed to take over the ASEAN Chairmanship next year (2018).

When interviewed by a foreign media why he was not invited to the China meeting, Lee Hsien Loong gave an awkward silence.

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South China Morning Post SCMP 19 hrs
Why wasn't Singapore's PM Lee Hsien Loong invited to China's Belt and Road Summit?

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China's Belt and Road project could bring opportunities and challenges to S'pore: Minister Lawrence Wong

When asked why Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong did not attend the Belt & Road Forum, which was attended by 29 heads of state & government, including many from South-east Asia, Mr Wong said the invitation was decided by the Chinese.

He noted that the focus of the forum was on outbound investments, & in getting Chinese investments abroad and encouraging Chinese companies to go overseas.

"We don't have any specific projects as of now that may be part of this Belt & Road (initiative) in terms of infrastructure," he said.


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FM calls on Singapore to respect China’s sea stance

China's foreign ministry called on Singapore to respect China's stance on the South China Sea issue on Tuesday, a further indication that China is upset about Singapore's enthusiasm for an increasing US presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing that China hopes countries will remain fair and objective over the South China Sea disputes.

Without mentioning the name, Geng admitted having noticed a recent Chinese newspaper report saying that Singapore had insisted on rendering the issue into the final document of the 17th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit, which was held on September 17 and 18 at Venezuela's Margarita Island. More than 100 countries attended the summit, including Vietnam and Laos.

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China’s foreign ministry joins war of words against Singapore over South China Sea dispute

The foreign ministry has blamed an unspecified “individual nation” for stirring up tensions over the South China Sea dispute after an unusual war of words broke out between the Singaporean envoy and the editor-in-chief of an influential mainland tabloid newspaper.

The incident underscores the difficulty Singapore faces in maintaining good ties with an assertive Beijing.

Without directly naming Singapore, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said an “individual nation” had insisted on including South China Sea issues in the final document of the recent Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit held in Venezuela on September 18.

related:
There may be trouble ahead for China and Singapore
The South China Sea shadow over Beijing’s ties with Singapore
Chinese diplomat tells Singapore to stay out of South China Sea disputes
Obama celebrates 50 years of US-Singapore relations with state dinner


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WHAT’S REALLY MAKING BEIJING ANGRY WITH SINGAPORE?

The argument between Singapore’s ambassador to China and the editor-in-chief of the nationalistic Chinese tabloid Global Times is less about specific actions and deeds as it is about Beijing’s growing disappointment with the tiny Asian city-state.

Until recently, the two nations – which share deep ethnic and cultural bonds – had enjoyed what was often described as a special relationship. This was manifest most clearly in two recent events – China’s rare high-profile treatment of the death of Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew in March last year and Singapore’s hosting of the historic meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping ( 習近平 ) and his Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-jeou last November.

But since then, mistrust has grown, spurred by the escalating rivalry between China and the United States and the landmark ruling by The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on July 12 denying Chinese claims to huge swathes of the South China Sea.

related: Troubled waters - Beijing’s ‘anger’ lurks beneath surface of Singapore-Global Times South China Sea row

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China warns PM Lee over South China Sea

An opinion piece was published on the Global Times, cautioning PM Lee Hsien Loong with regard to what he said during his recent official state visit to US. The Global Times is a daily Chinese newspaper published by the People’s Daily news group, which is the biggest newspaper group in China. This news group comes directly under the purview of the Chinese Communist Party.

News published by the group frequently provides direct information on the policies and viewpoints of the Chinese government. The Global Times was created to focus on international issues from the Chinese government’s perspective. As such, opinion pieces featured in Global Times carry considerable weight in representing the position of the Chinese government.


The piece published on 4 Aug, started by saying that President Obama had given PM Lee a grand reception, usually reserved for leaders of big countries and American allies.

related: PM Lee’s speech at White House state dinner angers China

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The new normal of Singapore’s relations with China
The death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, a muscular China and the South China Sea dispute are pushing Sino-S'pore ties into a new chapter

Up till about a year ago, relations between S'pore and China could loosely be grouped into two eras: Mao and post-Mao.

In the first, which ran from the founding of People’s Republic in 1949 to 1978, ties between the pair of new nations were mostly cold.

Beijing, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, wanted to increase the loyalty of overseas Chinese to China and did not recognise the existence of an independent Singapore up to 1970.

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Singapore-China ties -- 7 things to know about 25 years of diplomatic relations
Chinese President Mr Xi Jinping (left) with S'pore PM Lee Hsien Loong in 2010.PHOTO: ZAOBAO

S'pore and China mark 25 years of diplomatic relations this year.

On Friday (Nov 6), President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan will make their first state visit to Singapore. In many ways, the ties between Singapore, a city-state of 5.5 million, and China, a behemoth with 1.4 billion people, have been unique.

Here are seven things about the two countries' relationship.
  • HANDSHAKE SEALS THE DEAL
  • WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG?
  • BACK IN THE 1970S
  • SENDING AMBASSADORS
  • WE MEAN BUSINESS
  • JOINT PROJECTS
  • PANDA DIPLOMACY
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Singapore-China relations: A progressive partnership

Last year, S'pore and China commemorated 25 years of diplomatic relations, culminating in the exchange of state visits by Singapore President Tony Tan and Chinese President Xi Jinping. We established an All-Round Cooperative Partnership Progressing with the Times.

Singapore and China have had interactions for many centuries. S'pore has always been part of the Maritime Silk Road. The majority of our (Singapore’s) citizens have ancestors from China. We enjoy a long-standing, wide-ranging relationship that transcends politics. The landmark visits by Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (1976) and China’s former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (1978) laid a strong foundation for the modern phase of our bilateral relations, prior to the establishment of formal diplomatic ties in 1990.

Lee Kuan Yew always believed that a strong China that was positively engaged with Southeast Asia would strongly benefit the region. That was why he suggested we jointly develop the Suzhou Industrial Park in 1994, our first government-to-government project, to promote the exchange of development experiences.

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Sino-Singapore Relations

China and Singapore are good neighbors, and the friendship between our countries and peoples is rooted in history. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between China and Singapore.


Over the past 25 years, thanks to the joint efforts from both sides, our bilateral relations have enjoyed fast and ever-deepening growth in an all-round way, and mutually beneficial cooperation has achieved fruitful outcomes in areas like economy and trade, investment, finance, social governance and cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Looking into the future, China-Singapore friendship boasts great potential and broad prospect, and is about to enter a new era of rapid growth.


The Chinese embassy in Singapore is committed to promoting continued growth of our friendship and all-round cooperation. We sincerely hope this website will be your friend and serve as a window on China and China-Singapore relations and also a bridge of friendship between our peoples.


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Beijing seeks to cement relations with Singapore

Beijing says it hopes Singapore can play a constructive role for peace and stability in the region, as it welcomes the country's prime minister who has been caught in a media storm recently for his China-related remarks.


Welcoming his Singaporean counterpart, Premier Li Keqiang told Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that China is determined to seek peaceful development.

But the country's will to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity is unswerving, said Li, referring to territorial disputes with some neighboring countries.

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Relations between China and Singapore


China and Singapore established diplomatic relations on 3 October 1990.


After the founding of New China, Singapore, then under the rule of British colonial authorities, maintained people-to-people trade relations with China. The contacts between the two countries began to increase since mid-70s.The two sides established their Commercial Representatives' Offices in each other's country in 1981 and started their air service in 1985.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations of the two countries, President Yang Shangkun (in 1993), President Jiang Zemin (in 1994), Chairman of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Li Ruihuan (in 1995) and Premier Li Peng (in 1997) from China visited Singapore. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (in 1990), President Wee Kim Wee (in 1991), Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew (in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2000), Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong (in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 2000), President Ong Teng Cheong (in 1995), Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (in 1995 and 2000) and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Tony Tan Keng Yam (in 1997) from Singpore visited China.

Singapore has Consulates-General in Shanghai, Xiamen and Hong Kong.

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Singapore-China ties 'going strong'

Singapore-China ties will remain strong even after the death of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam, after he became only the second Singapore leader after Mr Lee to be conferred an honorary doctorate in China.

"Mr Lee's passing marks the end of an era but it does not mean the end of strong China-Singapore relations," Dr Tan said yesterday in response to a question from a student at Nankai University. The institution conferred the doctorate on Dr Tan for his contribution to bilateral ties.

"We have established other platforms. Our ministers meet very frequently, many delegations of officials from China visit Singapore, and from Singapore to China, to learn from each other."


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Singapore and China


Singapore enjoys strong and substantive relations with China, anchored by a steady flow of high-level visits, strengthening economic ties, and growing people-to-people exchanges. Over the past year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam and other Ministers made separate visits to China. From the Chinese side, Politburo Standing Committee Member and Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, Poliburo Members Zhao Leji and Sun Chunlan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi and Anhui Party Secretary Zhang Baoshun visited Singapore. In October 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Teo and Vice Premier Zhang co-chaired the 10th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation as well as Joint Steering Councils for both the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-city. The growing people-to-people exchanges between the two countries are supplemented by on-going programmes in Human Resource Development (HRD) cooperation.  Both sides also enjoy close cooperation in regional and international fora.

Singapore and China continue to enjoy robust economic ties. In 2013, China became Singapore's largest trading partner, with bilateral trade in 2013 rising 11.0% from the previous year to S$115.2 billion.  As of 2012, China remained our top investment destination. Besides our two flagship government-to-government projects – the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Tianjin Eco-city – we have also stepped up economic engagement with China at the provincial level through our seven provincial councils in Sichuan, Shandong, Liaoning, Zhejiang, Tianjin, Guangdong, and Jiangsu. Both sides have also strengthened economic links through private sector-led initiatives such as the Guangzhou Knowledge City, the Singapore-Sichuan Hi-Tech Innovation Park, and the Jilin Food Zone. The China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (CSFTA), which came into effect in January 2009, is the first comprehensive bilateral FTA that China has concluded with an Asian country. Singapore and China have also agreed to enhance financial services cooperation under the CSFTA.


Going beyond the traditional parameters of economic cooperation, Singapore and China are also exploring new spheres of collaboration in education, culture, social management and finance. Some recent initiatives include the Singapore-China Forum on Social Management, the education and research collaboration between the Singapore University of Technology and Design, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Zhejiang University, and the establishment of the China Cultural Centre in Singapore. Singapore also welcomed the arrival of the two Giant Pandas, Kai Kai and Jia Jia, in September 2012.

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Singapore China G-to-G Projects
Chinese President Xi Jinping giving a speech at the state banquet held in his honour at the Istana on Nov 6, 2015.ST FOTO: KOR KIAN BENG

The 3d Singapore-China government-led project will be based in Chongqing, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at a state banquet at the Istana on Friday (Nov 6).

"During my visit, the 2 sides will officially launch the third project based in Chongqing," Mr Xi said.

The bilateral project will be on the theme of "modern connectivity and modern services", and could help lower the cost of doing business in China's western region.

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China–Singapore relations

People's Republic of China – Singapore relations officially started on October 3, 1990. Diplomatic missions were established in the early 1990s based on trade and the warming of ties from other ASEAN countries towards mainland China.


Historic links between the two nations' people began much earlier than the founding of the People's Republic of China in October 1949. Migrant Chinese labourers escaping poverty and war came to what was known as Nanyang to the Chinese to Singapore, which was part of the Straits Settlements. Many ethnic Chinese Singaporeans derived their ancestral roots in southern China from Fujian, Guangdong and Hainan provinces.

During British rule in Singapore and then under British Malaya before independence, Singapore and the Republic of China had diplomatic relations. When Singapore became independent in 1965 from Malaysia, it continued to recognise the Republic of China as the legitimate government of China. In the 1970s, People's Republic of China and Singapore began unofficial relations. This led to the exchange of Commercial Representatives' Offices between the two nations in 1981. In 1985, commercial air services between mainland China and Singapore commenced.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries officially began in 1990. Singapore was the last country in South East Asia to formally recognise the People's Republic of China out of respect to Indonesia, sensitivities in the region and fears from neighbouring countries of communism in those times. Singapore still maintains unofficial relations with the ROC, including the continuation of a controversial military training and facilities agreement from 1975. This is due to a lack of usable space in built-up Singapore. The People's Republic of China has proposed that Singapore relocate some of its training facilities from Taiwan to Hainan province, however Singapore has not as of yet accepted such an offer.

Bilateral ties took a dive when Singapore's deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong travelled to Taiwan for a private visit in 2004. The People's Republic of China took offence to the trip as due to the complicated political status of the region Later in 2004, Chinese government put bilateral relations on hold.


Relations between the two countries gradually improved as China and Singapore forged agreements in free trade, education, foreign investment and technology. Examples are the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, which were constructed with the help of Singapore.

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Singapore–United States relations


United States – Singapore relations are bilateral relations between the United States and the Singapore. Singapore and the United States have long been close allies, and relations between the 2 countries have traditionally been solidly strong and amicable, with the two nations enjoying extensive military, economic, cultural and commercial relations.


According to the U.S. Global Leadership Report, 77% of Singaporeans approved of U.S. leadership under the Obama Administration in 2010, and while this approval rating decreased slightly down to 75% in 2011, it nonetheless remained the highest rating of the U.S. for any surveyed country in the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States first opened a consulate in Singapore in 1836, when the island was part of the Straits Settlements of the British Empire. Singapore and the United States have maintained formal diplomatic relations since the independence of Singapore in 1965. Singapore's efforts to maintain economic growth and political stability and its support for regional cooperation harmonize with U.S. policy in the region and form a solid basis for amicable relations between the two countries.

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Singapore an anchor for US presence in Asia, says Obama
PM Lee Hsien Loong and US President Barack Obama in a photo taken at the US-ASEAN summit held in California on Feb 15. (The Straits Times)

Singapore is an anchor for the US presence in Asia, said US President Barack Obama, outlining why the country is being given the rare honor this week of an official visit with a state dinner at the White House.

He told The Straits Times such visits are an opportunity to "reaffirm our ties and friendship with our closest partners around the world".

"This visit is an occasion to mark the 50th anniversary of our bilateral relationship with Singapore, which is one of our strongest and most reliable partners in South- east Asia," he said.


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South China Sea dispute: US has to build ties first, says PM Lee
PM Lee meeting US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen in Washington, DC, on Thu. He is currently in the US on a working visit.FOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS & INFORMATION

The maritime disputes in the South China Sea need to be tackled as part of a broader US-China relationship, rather than as a one-dimensional, zero-sum issue, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

To that end, he said the US must first start by building an overall, substantive relationship in the region.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal editorial board in an interview in the United States this week, PM Lee outlined what he thought the US response should be to the South China Sea issue.

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PM Lee lauds people-to-people ties between Singapore and US
PM Lee Hsien Loong and wife Ho Ching sing the national anthem with attendees during a National Day reception for US-based Singaporeans, on July 31, 2016. — TODAY pic

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has lauded the deep people-to-people ties between Singapore and the United States, adding that these links have served as the foundation for strong bilateral relations.

“The fact that there are so many Singaporeans here in America — living, working, studying, some married here and some are visiting here — shows how wide and deep our (bilateral) relations are,” said PM Lee during a National Day reception held at the Singapore Embassy in Washington, DC, last night.

“It is not just between the governments and between the companies, but between people too,” he said.


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THE U.S. AND SINGAPORE: MAKING A STRONG RELATIONSHIP STRONGER

Singapore has witnessed the robust forward deployment of our military men and women, particularly our Navy.  Both of our militaries have benefited from extensive interactions through multiple training exercises, throughout in the region and in the United States -- most recently last month through the Forging Sabre exercise in Arizona that involved over 700 airmen and soldiers from Singapore.  I look forward to deepening this bond and expanding our cooperation during my tenure in Singapore.


Whether it’s ensuring economic trade benefits or guaranteeing the flow of information, I know that it’s the shared values, goals, and our friendship that fosters the great mutual success we enjoy.


What makes any friendship worthwhile is mutual candor and cooperation.  The United States values Singapore’s insight and your willingness to share your expertise.  Singaporean officials let me know quietly and respectfully when they believe the United States is moving in the wrong direction.  I intend to do the same.  Whether it is an issue of security, human rights, or individual freedoms, I will seek a candid discussion with you on how we can improve the lives of all of our citizens.

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Singapore and the US: Security Partners, Not Allies

While Singapore and the United States have traditionally enjoyed close defense and security ties, it would be misleading to classify them as clear-cut allies, writes the IISS. This is because Singapore needs to keep its options open in a region where balance of power politics remain central

As US Vice President Joe Biden told journalists when he visited Singapore in late July, his country and the city-state not only enjoy mutually beneficial economic ties, but also important, wide-ranging defence and security cooperation. Indeed, over the last 18 months it has become clear that this bilateral relationship is a lynchpin of the US ‘rebalance’ to the Asia-Pacific. Encouraging a strong US regional security role has been central to Singapore’s foreign and defence policies for more than 40 years, and it recently agreed to provide what is, in all but name, a base for US Navy Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), the first of which (USS Freedom) arrived in April. However, while the depth of their defence links may give the impression that Singapore is a US ally, the city-state has pointedly eschewed this, preferring the strategic autonomy deriving from a less formal – if still close – connection.

The two countries’ security links date back to the late 1960s, when Singapore supported Washington’s war effort in Vietnam by providing maintenance and resupply for US Navy (USN) operations and allowing ‘rest and recreation’ visits by US troops. During the 1970s, the US became the main equipment supplier for the growing Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Small bilateral naval exercises began in 1975. In 1978, it was disclosed that the USN was using Singapore’s Tengah Air Base for long-range patrol flights over the Indian Ocean. In 1981, Exercise Tiger Balm, an annual joint brigade-level command-post exercise, was inaugurated. The United States Air Force (USAF) was also allowed to maintain a facility at Paya Lebar Air Base to support transiting aircraft.

Singapore is a small island state sandwiched between much larger neighbours. Originally led, after it achieved independence from Malaysia in 1965, by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Foreign Minister S. Rajaratnam and Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee, Singaporean politicians have understood it is best to prevent the regional dominance of any power that might threaten their country’s independence. As Lee Kuan Yew said in 1966, it was vital for Singapore to have ‘overwhelming power on its side’. Singapore has built up its armed forces primarily to offset Indonesian and Malaysian power in its immediate locale. However, its small size and relatively limited diplomatic influence and military capacity have forced it to base its balance-of-power strategy at the regional level on borrowing political and military strength from powers outside the region, particularly the US.

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Singapore and the US: not quite allies


Singapore and the United States are linked not only by important economic relations, but also by a burgeoning defence relationship. Most recently in June 2012 the US announced that it would deploy as many as four littoral combat ships to the city-state from 2013, as part of the Pentagon’s much-publicised ‘rebalance to the Asia-Pacific’.


Their security links date back to the late 1960s, when Singapore actively supported Washington’s war effort in Vietnam. While this continuity, and the closeness and depth of their defence links today, might give the impression that Singapore is a US ally, the city-state’s government has nevertheless pointedly eschewed that status, preferring the strategic autonomy deriving from a less formal—if still intense—defence nexus. Nevertheless, the relationship could pose dilemmas for Singapore.


Singapore’s support for the US’ regional security role and military presence originated in the appreciation of Singapore’s elite, led by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Foreign Minister S. Rajaratnam and Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee, that the interests of their small island state, sandwiched between much larger and potentially aggressive neighbours, as well as apparently endangered by communist North Vietnam and China, would be best served by preventing the regional dominance of any power. As Lee Kuan Yew said in 1966, it was vital for Singapore to have ‘overwhelming power on its side’. Singapore has built up its own armed forces primarily to prevent Indonesia and Malaysia from dominating its immediate locale; but at the grand regional level, Singapore’s small size and relatively limited diplomatic influence and military capacity have forced it to base its balance-of-power strategy on borrowing political and military strength from extra-regional powers, principally the US

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Singapore: Background and U.S. Relations

A former trading and military outpost of the British Empire, the tiny Republic of Singapore has transformed itself into a modern Asian nation and a major player in the global economy, though it still substantially restricts political freedoms in the name of maintaining social stability and economic growth. Singapore’s heavy dependence on international trade makes regional stability and the free flow of goods and services essential to its existence. As a result, the island nation is a firm supporter of both U.S. international trade policy and the U.S. security role in Asia, but also maintains close relations with China. The Obama Administration’s strategy of rebalancing U.S. foreign policy priorities to the Asia-Pacific enhances Singapore’s role as a key U.S. partner in the region. Singapore and the United States are among the 12 countries on both sides of the Pacific involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is the centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s economic rebalance to Asia.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) has won every general election since the end of the colonial era in 1959, aided by a fragmented opposition, Singapore’s economic success, and electoral procedures that strongly favor the ruling party. Some point to changes in the political and social environment that may herald more political pluralism, including generational changes and an ever-increasingly international outlook among Singaporeans. In May 2011, opposition parties claimed their most successful results in history, taking six of parliament’s 87 elected seats. Though this still left the PAP with an overwhelming majority in Parliament, the ruling party described the election as a watershed moment for Singapore and vowed to reform the party to respond to the public’s concerns.

In 2012, Singapore was the 17th largest U.S. trading partner with $50 billion in total two-way goods trade, and a substantial destination for U.S. foreign direct investment. The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) went into effect in January 2004, and trade has burgeoned. In addition to trade, mutual security interests strengthen ties between Singapore and the United States. A formal strategic partnership agreement outlines access to military facilities and cooperation in counterterrorism, counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, joint military exercises, policy dialogues, and shared defense technology.

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China Concerned About US-Singapore Military Ties

China has expressed its criticism for the growing defense ties between the United States and Singapore in a recent statement. The U.S. and Singapore are exploring improved defense ties in “new high-level dialogues” and Beijing is reportedly concerned that this development spells greater American military presence in the region

On Tuesday, December 08, 2015, China voiced its displeasure at the new U.S.-Singapore defense cooperation agreement. The military aspect of the arrangement includes Washington sending its U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft to Singapore; the presence of the Boeing surveillance plane in Southeast Asia is clearly a development that Beijing is not comfortable with.


Addressing the issue at a press gathering, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chuying said, “I think this kind of increase in military deployment by the United States and pushing regional militarization does not accord with the joint long-term interests of the countries in this region”. The Chinese official further added, “So we hope the relevant side does more to enhance mutual trust among regional countries, and thus benefit the regional peace and development.”


Ms. Hua Chuying shared that Beijing is of the opinion that just like other states that make up the region, Singapore too wants Southeast Asia to achieve and maintain regional stability and progress. China has long been of the opinion that regional disputes and concerns must be managed internally by the actors involved and non-stakeholders and international parties should not interfere; Beijing has historically taken umbrage at Washington’s interest and involvement in the region and the recent agreement with Singapore undoubtedly adds to China’s list of concerns about the same.


related: U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Angers China


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The US, China, and Singapore's second act


Harvard political scientist Graham Allison, who was in town recently for a closed-door dialogue organised jointly by the Asia Society and the S. Rajaratnam Endowment, discusses in this interview with The Sunday Times the likelihood of war between the United States and China and what that means for Singapore. He is the co-author of Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights On China, The United States And The World.


What can Singapore and its citizens do about the tensions given its strong relations with both the US and China?

  • I would urge Singaporeans to study Mr Lee Kuan Yew. He was first and foremost concerned about the well-being of Singapore, realising that it needs to avoid being trampled in an environment with two elephants. Singapore can play a role as he did and help leaderships in both countries understand how the relationship can be a positive one, in spite of the potential conflict.
  • Mr Lee thought that it was possible for the US and China to share leadership of Asia in the 21st century. China would likely emerge as the dominant economic power in the region, while the US will likely remain the dominant military power for at least as far as one can see.
  • The two can live with each other in reasonable accommodation, and states like Singapore can discourage the bidding of either.
  • It can also encourage the other parties who may be more willing to risk war, like the Philippines or Vietnam, that this is not just about them, but the stability and well-being of the whole region.
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China military keeping tabs on US Poseidon deployment in Singapore
A U.S. Navy P8 Poseidon aircraft at Perth International Airport March 31, 2014. Reuters file photo

China’s military is closely watching an agreement between the United States and Singapore to deploy the US P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane to the city state and hopes the move does not harm regional stability, said the ­Defence Ministry. “We are paying close attention to how the relevant situation develops, and hope ­bilateral defence cooperation between the relevant countries is beneficial to ­regional peace and stability and not the opposite,” said the Ministry in a brief statement.


The Foreign Ministry of China, which is at odds with Washington over Beijing’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea, said the ­deployment was aimed at militarising the region and was detrimental to ­regional peace. However, analysts ­TODAY spoke with noted that the move is ­unlikely to significantly affect US-China or Singapore-China ties.


In a joint statement after a meeting this week in Washington, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Singa­pore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen welcomed the inaugural deployment of the aircraft in Singapore from Dec 7 to 14. A US defence official has said further deployments in Singapore could be expected.


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Singapore-US Defence Relations

Defence interactions between Singapore and the US are extensive and expanding.

Singapore has been a strong supporter of the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. When the US withdrew from Clark and Subic, Singapore was the first to offer facilities. In 1990 Singapore and the US signed an MOU to allow the US navy and airforce access to Singapore’s military facilities. Also, COMLOG WESTPAC, a US logistics coordinating unit which serves US forces deployed in the Asia-Pacific, was relocated to Singapore in July 1992. The Singapore-US MOU, now into its eighth year, has served both countries well. More than a hundred ships from the US Navy call at Singapore each year and US fighter aircraft regularly deploy to Singapore.

Access to Singapore’s facilities has enabled the US military to deal quickly with contingency situations in the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Korean Peninsula, and Somalia. For instance, during the Gulf War, the US Armed Forces used Singapore as a transit point for US ships, troops and aircraft on their way to the Gulf. The use of Paya Lebar Air Base helped the US to support its airlift operations to Somalia.

Sea spats splitting Asia into pro-US, pro-China camps

U.S. President Barack Obama walks away after a group photo shoot at the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 22. © Reuters

TOKYO -- Even as East Asian economies become increasingly integrated, fault lines are spreading throughout the region over competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

The potential for lasting divisions is mounting as countries are forced to side with either the U.S. or China over the maritime disputes.

Politicians and government officials who have attended meetings with U.S. President Barack Obama mostly say he assesses human relationships as if they were something that could be measured on a balance sheet and prioritizes business over friendship. In other words, they say he is a pragmatist through and through.

related:
China wants to use resources like these landing craft, pictured here parading through Beijing on Sept. 3. © AP

TOKYO -- Talks over China's island-building projects in the South China Sea at Sunday's East Asia Summit in Malaysia yielded no surprises. The U.S. and Japan expressed concerns about the new islands, and China defended their legitimacy.

Japan, the Philippines and Australia expect the U.S. to maintain a presence in the area and use its naval vessels and other military assets to counterbalance China's claims that its territorial waters extend throughout much of the South China Sea. The U.S., however, is caught in a dilemma. While it wants to quell China's unilateral attempt to change international order, it is reluctant to engage in an all-out battle with China.

There are three reasons:
  • The U.S. military is overstretched. It is engaged in the fight against the Islamic State group in the Middle East. It is also trying to prevent terrorist attacks at home and abroad. And the row with Russia over Ukraine continues.
  • U.S. military forces are weary. Many U.S. troops are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. The mental condition brings back vivid memories of combat, makes sleeping difficult and changes how sufferers react to those around them and to the outside world. It is incurable. This is apparently holding back U.S. President Barack Obama from sending ground troops to Syria.
  • Finances. The federal government is being forced to spread its dollars thin, and the defense budget is getting squeezed.
related:

US-China friction set to drag on as Beijing flexes military muscle

The guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen on Oct. 27 sailed within 12 nautical miles of reclaimed islands controlled by Beijing in the South China Sea. © Reuters

TOKYO -- While Washington seems to have won the first round of its confrontation with Beijing in disputed South China Sea waters, tensions are likely to remain high and geopolitical risks may mount as China continues to beef up its military.


The USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer equipped with the Aegis missile-defense system, left Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, on Oct. 27, and sailed within 12 nautical miles (22.2km) of artificial islands built by China on the Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago.


The move highlighted that Washington considers China's claim to territorial waters around the islands invalid under international law. Although two Chinese navy vessels shadowed the Lassen, warning it to leave the area, China refrained from taking more aggressive steps.


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China Decries US P-8 Deployment in Singapore as 'Regional Militarization'

Ash Carter and Ng Eng Hen sign the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement during a meeting at the Pentagon, Dec. 7, 2015

In announcing its displeasure with the deal, China is careful to lay the blame on Washington, not Singapore. For Singapore, however, there’s no paradox. A careful balancing act between the United States and China is seen as the best avenue to securing the country’s interests.

As is the case for many Southeast Asian states, China is Singapore’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade totaling $86 billion in 2014. Singapore is the most popular destination for Chinese investments in Asia. Meanwhile, Singapore has been the largest foreign investor in China for the past two years.

Yet since the beginning of China-Singapore diplomatic relations, Singapore has been nervous about being seen as unduly close to (or reliant on) China; The Straits Times notes that the country delayed establishing diplomatic relations with China by nearly 15 years so that it could be the last of the original five ASEAN states to do so. Meanwhile, Singapore has kept up a robust defense relationship with the United States. The joint statement issued by Ng and U.S. Secretary Defense Ash Carter spoke of a “shared belief that a strong United States presence in the Asia-Pacific is vital for peace, prosperity and stability.”

related:

US, Singapore Agree Spy Plane Deployment Amid South China Sea Tensions
US, Singapore Ink New Defense Pact
Arguments Open in Philippine Case Against China's South China Sea Claims
Next US Navy South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Operation: Mischief Reef
US, Japan Put South China Sea at the Forefront of Asia Summits
Would Indonesia Actually Challenge China's Nine-Dash Line in International Court?

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See P-8 deployment in perspective


The announcement that Singapore will host the United States' P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft till next Monday was tucked away in the middle of a joint statement issued after Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen met his US counterpart Ashton Carter at the Pentagon on Monday.


But the message was not lost on defence officials and experts who zoomed in on the week-long rotational deployment, even though the statement focused more on how both militaries will strengthen ties and step up cooperation in new areas such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cyber defence and biosecurity.



Commentators have read the move as Singapore leaning towards a US that is seeking to flex its muscles in Asia, amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.

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China remains biggest challenge for US

Presidents Xi and Obama have tried to build a closer relationship

Buried under the avalanche of reactions to presidential candidate Donald Trump's verbal attack against Muslims, the stream of headlines about the San Bernardino couple who shot and killed more than 14 people last week and the dissection of President Barack Obama's Sunday Oval speech about the war against the so-called Islamic State (IS) was a very significant announcement.


Singapore said it would allow the US to deploy a spy plane out of its territory to monitor Chinese activities in the South China sea. The move, which angered the Chinese, comes at a time of heightened tensions in the area over China's building of artificial islands in disputed places.


It is a reminder that while Washington's thinking, bandwidth and resources, including military, seem continually consumed by the crisis and threats emanating from the Middle East, the more serious long-term challenge for US national security interests remains the management of its relationship with China.


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Beijing frowns on US intel aircraft in Singapore


China has criticized enhanced US defense relations with Singapore that include the deployment of US Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft to the island.


Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chuying said that a stronger US military presence runs counter to the interests of countries in the region. Hua's comments followed the signing of an enhanced defense cooperation agreement yesterday between US Defense Secretary Ash Carter (Pictured) and Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen. The two officials also welcomed the inaugural deployment of the Poseidon aircraft from December 7 to 14.


Such planes form part of the US military presence in and around the South China Sea, where China has been taking increasingly robust steps to uphold its sovereignty claims against neighbors such as Vietnam and US ally the Philippines.—AP



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Taking US-Singapore relations higher


The enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) inked by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and his US counterpart Ashton Carter takes the bilateral relationship to elevated levels, including closer consultations between military establishments and new areas of cooperation such as cyber security. Understandably, it has gained much attention because a related joint statement mentions the inaugural deployment of American P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft to Singapore. Coming on top of frontline Littoral Combat Ships the US has sent into these waters, there is less need to worry that US strategic commitment to Asia may waver.


The enhanced DCA is not an isolated event, even as it updates the strategic framework agreement inked a decade ago. In June, Singapore and Australia signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement. Last month, Singapore and India announced a strategic partnership to be handled at the dual levels of foreign and defence ministers. Thus, more bricks in the evolving security architecture are falling into place.



These moves do not imply ganging up against any particular nation. Rather, they are emblematic of Singapore's desire to increase the number of stakeholders in the region and build strategic trust among them. Neither is the Republic out of sync with the rest of South-east Asia in pursuing these objectives. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told US President Barack Obama at the recent East Asia Summit, countries in the region all appreciate America's engagement, participation and contribution to security.

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US, Singapore Agree Spy Plane Deployment Amid South China Sea Tensions


Singapore has granted the United States permission to fly surveillance aircraft out of its territory.


In a joint statement after their meeting in Washington, D.C. on Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and visiting Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen welcomed the inaugural deployment of the U.S. P-8 Poseidon aircraft to Singapore from December 7 to December 14.


Singapore is no stranger to providing the United States access to its facilities. Singapore stepped in to support an American military presence following the closure of U.S. bases in the Philippines in 1991. U.S. littoral combat ships (LCS) are also already being deployed to Singapore, with the third deployment scheduled to take place in 2016.



The deployment of P-8s is significant because it provides Washington with another location in the region from which to stage surveillance flights. As I noted in a related piece, Washington already conducts such flights in other countries including Japan and the Philippines for various purposes, including monitoring China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

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US, Singapore Ink New Defense Pact


The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) frigate leads a US guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and two other Singapore vessels in a formation during 2011 iteration of the CARAT exercises.


The United States and Singapore inked a new defense pact Monday that will provide a new framework for an expanded defense relationship between the two strategic partners.


Singapore and the United States already have a strong defense relationship. The city-state has provided logistical support for U.S. military aircraft and vessels in the region under the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA). Singapore stepped in to support an American military presence following the closure of U.S. bases in the Philippines in 1991, supported U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and was the first Southeast Asian state to join the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.



But the two sides have been looking to boost ties as they commemorate the 50th anniversary of their relationship in 2016. On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Singapore’s Minister for Defense Ng Eng Hen met at the Pentagon and signed the new enhanced defense cooperation agreement (DCA).

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The Pragmatic ‘Little Red Dot’: Singapore’s US Hedge Against China
"We are a little red dot but we are a special red dot. We are connected with the world, we play a special role. And we are not going to be in anybody’s pocket". - Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, 2009
The cornerstones of Singaporean foreign policy towards the United States and China are constituted by security considerations, economic liberalism and a dedication to pragmatic non-alignment. Above all, pragmatism has led the Singaporean approach to the Eastern and Western powers. Diplomatically, Singapore aims to be neutral and free from alliances, even in its close relations with both the US and China. Security-wise, Singapore has called for the involvement of the US in Asia Pacific across the Cold War and Post-Cold War periods as a hedge to local regional powers, particularly in light of China’s military modernisation. Access to the large American consumer market has been considered crucial to Singapore’s economic ‘miracle’ but the American share of trade has declined in recent years as trade with Asian partners, and particularly with China, has accelerated. Singapore maximises economic opportunities through growing market ties with China, while avoiding bandwagoning. Singapore hedges its cultural, spatial and economic proximity to China with robust diplomatic, military and economic relations with the US and through regional participation in ASEAN and international organisations. By doing so, Singapore pursues its grand desire to remain uniquely Singaporean.

Singapore punches above its weight. For a state with a mere five million residents and 700 square kilometres of land, its economic production, security position and political leadership in Southeast Asia are remarkable. Singapore’s significance is also demonstrated by the time and attention it has received from great powers, including the US and China. The ‘Little Red Dot’ phrase comes from Former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie’s remark during the Asian Financial Crisis, claiming that the non-green (i.e. nonMuslim Malay) state of Singapore was neither a friend nor of significance to him. Months later, Habibie’s Indonesia faltered and was forced to seek help from the Little Red Dot of Singapore, among others, and the well-capitalised island nation acquiesced. To assure its own survival, small but significant Singapore has aided its neighbours when in need – due to financial crisis or natural disaster – regardless of ideological or cultural differences. Yet it has passionately avoided overly close alliance with, or becoming a ‘satellite’ of, regional great powers, be it the United States, Japan or China.

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US agrees spy plane deployment in Singapore amid China tensions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The United States has agreed with Singapore on a first deployment of the U.S. P8 Poseidon spy plane in Singapore this month, in a fresh response to China over its pursuit of territorial claims in the South China Sea.


In a joint statement after a meeting in Washington on Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen welcomed the inaugural deployment of the aircraft in Singapore from Dec. 7 to 14.


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Full Coverage:

China–Singapore relations - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Singapore establishes formal diplomatic relations with China
Singapore-China ties: 7 things to know about 25 years of
The special relationship with China | TODAYonline

Sino-Singapore Relations
China-Singapore relations will continue to evolve over time
Singapore, China to establish 'all-round cooperative
Singapore and China - S. Rajaratnam School of
Singapore, China mark 25 years of diplomatic ties - Media
Commemorative Events for the 25th Anniversary of
Straits Times: Singapore-China ties 'going strong'
People's Republic of China - Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Advancing Singapore-China Economic Relations - ISEAS
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How did Lee Kuan Yew view the Singapore-China
Advancing Singapore-China Economic Relations
Brief Introduction to Relations between China and Singapore
Beijing seeks to cement relations with Singapore - China Daily
China Decries US P-8 Deployment in Singapore as 'Regional Militarization'
US, Spore Agree Spy Plane Deployment Amid South China Sea Tensions
US to Deploy Navy P-8A Poseidon Aircraft to Singapore
US deploys spy plane in Singapore

US agrees spy plane deployment in Singapore amid China tensions
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US agrees spy plane deployment in Singapore amid China tension
Beijing frowns on US intel aircraft in Singapore
China Decries US P-8 Deployment in Singapore as 'Regional
Taking US-Singapore relations higher
Singapore-US defence relations: Enhancing security, benefiting region
Singapore-US relations very strong, says Obama
The US, China, and Singapore's second act
See P-8 deployment in perspective
Obama hails 'very strong' relations with Singapore
The US-Singapore enhanced defence agreeement: A third upgrade
China remains biggest challenge for US
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Singapore China G-to-G Projects
Chinese President Xi Jinping giving a speech at the state banquet held in his honour at the Istana on Nov 6, 2015.ST PHOTO: KOR KIAN BENG

The third Singapore-China government-led project will be based in Chongqing, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at a state banquet at the Istana on Friday (Nov 6).


"During my visit, the two sides will officially launch the third project based in Chongqing," Mr Xi said.


The bilateral project will be on the theme of "modern connectivity and modern services", and could help lower the cost of doing business in China's western region.


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"Singapore - US" Bilateral Ties
PM Lee Hsien Loong and US President Barack Obama shake hands after their bilateral meeting alongside the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Nov 22, 2015. Photo: Reuters

US President Barack Obama says relations between the US and Singapore are strong and that the Asian nation is an excellent international partner.


Mr Obama commented after a one-on-one meeting today (Nov 22) with Singapore’s Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, in Malaysia during a summit of Asian nations.


Mr Obama says they discussed efforts to counter Islamic State extremists, the recently concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact, climate change and tensions in the South China Sea.


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