Monday, 17 July 2017

Singapore may be small but it has to make its voice heard: PM Lee

Singapore Skyline
Mr Lee was responding to a question on the role of small states & the importance of being included in global discussions such as the G20 summit

As a small state, Singapore has to make its voice heard when important issues concerning it arise, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, following a working visit to Germany where he attended the Group of 20 (G20) summit & met world leaders.

“We have to be aware of the realities, but at the same time, that does not mean surrendering ourselves to our fates,” he said.

“We are under no illusions. This is a dangerous world, there are countries big & small. Singapore is small & we have to take the world as it is. At the same time, we have to protect our interests and do the best for ourselves ... I think these 2 are complementary, they are not contradictory.”

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Singapore must 'stand up and be counted': PM Lee on country's foreign policy

As a small country, Singapore has to "take the world as it is" but at the same time protect the country's fundamental interests, especially in matters of safety, security, or its position in the world.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this on Monday (Jul 10) as he approached the end of his week-long visit to Germany, fresh from attending the G20 Leaders' Summit & several bilateral meetings.

“We are under no illusions. This is a dangerous world, there are countries big & small – Singapore is small," PM Lee told Singapore reporters. "And we have to take the world as it is, at the same time we have to protect our interests, & do the best for ourselves (as) we can in the world.”

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PM: Singapore has responsibility to speak up on important issues

Singapore has a responsibility to highlight important issues of concern to the country, deal with them & push its position on them, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.

Doing so is particularly crucial when Singapore's security, safety or fundamental interests regarding its position in the world - such as the rule of international law and the peaceful resolution of disputes - are at stake, he added.

"If we don't stand up & be counted, you cannot lie low & hope that nobody will notice you.

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Singapore maintains consistent position, even as it recalibrates to remain relevant, says PM Lee

He pointed out that from Singapore’s perspective, it is far better that China is strong and cooperating with the world, whether in terms of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Belt Road Initiative or in other areas.

“We believe it is good that China grows and prospers and plays its rightful role in the world in a constructive way,” Mr Lee told the audience.

He added: “I do not expect that we will be able to convince everybody in America or everybody in China. But I think that we are taking the right position and at least the foreign policy establishment, they appreciate where we stand.”

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Should small states act like small states?
(Clockwise) Prof Kishore Mahbubani, Dr Alan Chong, Ong Keng Yong & James Dorsey.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO, FACEBOOK, S. RAJARATNAM SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE

Despite its population of 2.6 million, the oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar punches above its weight on the global stage.

But over the years, Qatar's insistence on maintaining ties with Iran has ruffled the feathers of larger neighbours, which have also accused it of supporting terrorism - something Qatar roundly rejects.

Tensions came to a head last month as 9 Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia severed ties with Qatar & closed borders & airspace to Qatari aircraft & ships.

related:
Post-LKY era, we are in the age of contestation
Qatar: Big lessons from a small country
Singapore cannot be cowed by size
Nothing 'flawed' or 'dangerous' in Kishore's article
Small states with presence
Minister Shan, diplomats Bilahari & Ong KY say Prof Mahbubani's view 'flawed'
Act big or small? What lessons from the past?

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AS A SMALL STATE, SHOULD SINGAPORE HIDE WHEN ‘ELEPHANTS’ FIGHT?
Kishore Mahbubani suggested Doha’s troubles show that small states must always behave like small states.
Former Singaporean permanent representative to United Nations said small states should always act their size triggering fierce reaction

Is Qatar’s ongoing rift with its larger Arab neighbours a lesson in why small states should always act their size, and avoid stare downs with major powers when possible?

One former top Singaporean diplomat said as much in a commentary piece on Saturday, and promptly found himself chastised by his high placed peers in the Lion City’s vaunted diplomatic mix.

Singapore – a city state smaller than New York City – prides itself for an adroit foreign policy which has seen it cultivate strong ties with all major powers, from the United States, China and other G7 nations. Its pragmatic “maximum number of friends” approach was first championed by the late independence leader Lee Kuan Yew as a bulwark for small states.

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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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The long arduous road to healing
Building connections: Xi meeting with Lee in Hamburg for bilateral talks on July 6, 2017. — Xinhua
Building connections: Xi meeting with Lee in Hamburg for bilateral talks on July 6, 2017 — Xinhua

For China, mending ties with Singapore carries a geopolitical dimension. Singapore will be the rotating chairman for Asean next year and it might be able to exert influence on the Asean Summit, which will inevitably touch on South China Sea where Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines have laid their claims on, with China. Ships transporting the energy requirements of China have to pass through the Straits of Melaka and use Singapore’s port.

In dealing with the city state, China will have to be realistic in its expectations. Singapore, an international financial centre, is unlikely to change its policy of seeking a security alliance with the United States while pursuing economic ties with China. “Changing policy stance to placate the Chinese is highly unlikely as Singapore holds the freedom of navigation and rule of international law quite dear to its survival and prosperity,” Dr Oh tells Sunday Star. It is unlikely to change its security relationship with the United States, which relies on Singapore as a supply base for naval operations. A no-change stance of Singapore could be discerned from an interview Lee gave to Singapore press on July 10 when wrapping up his working visit to Germany.

“Singapore has a responsibility to highlight issues which concern it, deal with them, and push its position on them. “Doing so is particularly crucial when Singapore’s security, safety, or fundamental interests regarding its position in the world – such as the rule of international law and the peaceful resolution of disputes – are at stake.” But Singapore will have to handle the South China Sea disputes with care as a reheating up of these disputes would hinder its efforts to re-establish strong ties with China.

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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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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 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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AMBASSADOR BILAHARI SLAMS MAHBUBANI’S VIEWS ON SMALL STATES AS “DANGEROUSLY MISLEADING”
Ambassador Bilahari slams Mahbubani’s views on small states as “dangerously misleading”
Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan has slammed Kishore Mahbubani, the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), for advocating that “small states must always behave like small states.”

The rare disagreement in views of how Singapore should tread in the world post-Lee Kuan Yew was sparked by Mr Mahbubani’s article in the Straits Times on 1 July.

In the article, titled “Qatar: Big lessons from a small country”, Mr Mahbubani said there were three lessons Singapore should learn from the situation involving Qatar. The small middle-eastern country has been in the news recently after several other bigger Mid-East nations cut diplomatic ties with it. They accused Qatar of, among other things, “adopting various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilising the region.”

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LKY school dean’s views on Singapore’s foreign policy ‘flawed, intellectually questionable’
LKY school dean’s views on Singapore’s foreign policy ‘flawed, intellectually questionable’
Professor Kishore Mahbubani (left) & Singapore’s Ambassador at Large Bilahari Kausikan. TODAY file foto

Veteran diplomat Bilahari Kausikan has strongly criticised a commentary by the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), who argued that small states such as Singapore must always behave like small states & refrain from commenting on matters involving great powers. Mr Kausikan called the piece by Professor Kishore Mahbubani deeply flawed & dangerously misleading.

Weighing in on the issue, Home Affairs & Law Minister K Shanmugam also slammed Prof Mahbubani’s piece as “intellectually questionable”, adding that Singapore did not get to where it is by thinking small, and calling Ambassador-at-Large Mr Kausikan’s response “brilliant”.

“His first lesson — that small states must always behave like small states — is muddled, mendacious & indeed dangerous,” Mr Kausikan wrote in a lengthy Facebook post on Sunday morning (July 2), a day after Prof Mahbubani’s commentary titled Qatar: Big Lessons from a Small Country was published in The Straits Times.

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Kishore reiterates: S’pore’s statements must be more prudent
Kishore reiterates: S’pore’s statements must be more prudent
Professor Kishore Mahbubani denies his article was an attack on PM Lee Hsien Loong, a point the professor said was raised by some senior officials. TODAY File Foto

A day after his commentary on how small states should behave like small states drew criticisms from a minister & senior diplomats, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy dean Kishore Mahbubani has defended his assertions & reiterated that S'pore should be more prudent in its public statements. He also denied his article published in The Straits Times (ST) on Saturday was an attack on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, a point the professor said was raised by some senior officials.

“I wrote this article as I believe that some of our senior officials have been imprudent in their public statements. As a result, there have been some serious mishaps in our external relations,” Professor Mahbubani said in a note to media editors on Monday.

“The hard work done by our founding fathers has been squandered. Our geopolitical space has shrunk,” he added, without elaborating. “My criticisms have hit home. In response, some of these senior officials are floating a canard that this article is an attack on PM because it appeared on the weekend before the parliamentary debate today.”

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Shanmugam: We didn’t get where we are by ‘thinking small’
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam urged Singaporeans to tell the authorities if a family member or friend is being led astray by extremist ideology

Law & Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday that he found a commentary by Professor Kishore Mahbubani on foreign policy "questionable intellectually" for saying that small states must always behave like small states.

The piece, "Qatar: Big lessons from a small country", also drew criticism from veteran diplomat Bilahari Kausikan, who described the view as "muddled, mendacious and indeed dangerous".

Ambassador-at-Large Ong Keng Yong further warned that it is against Singapore's well-being if international relations are based purely on size.

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Minister Shanmugam backs Bilahari's 'brilliant' response to Kishore's article on small states
Composite of Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan (left), Minister for Home Affairs & Minister for Law K Shanmugam (centre) & Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore (right)

Home Affairs & Law Minister K Shanmugam has weighed in on differences about foreign policy ideas between Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan & dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Kishore Mahbubani.

In a FaceBook post on Sunday (Jul 2), Mr Shanmugam, who used to be Minister for Foreign Affairs, said he found Professor Mahbubani's piece on foreign policy "questionable, intellectually" & commended Mr Kausikan for a "brilliant response".

Mr Shanmugam said: "Kishore’s comments for example: 'Small states must always behave like small states' are contrary to some basic principles of Mr Lee Kuan Yew Principles which made us successful. Mr Lee never advocated cravenness, or thinking small. Did we get to where we are now, by thinking “small”? No. That is why Singapore was and is respected, despite being one of the smallest countries in the world."

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K Shanmugam Sc added 3 new photos 1 July at 23:00
[Bilahari’s brilliant response to Kishore]

Kishore Mahbubani had written a piece on foreign policy which I found questionable, intellectually.

Bilahari has given a brilliant response – the response that Kishore’s article deserves. I have included the link to his response below.

Kishore’s comments for example: “Small states must always behave like small states” are contrary to some basic principles of Mr Lee Kuan Yew Principles which made us successful. Mr Lee never advocated cravenness, or thinking small.

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Bilahari Kausikan 1 July at 09:41

Kishore's article in the ST of 1st July, the link is below, is deeply flawed. There are indeed lessons to be learnt from Qatar's recent unhappy experience, but not the ones he thinks.

I have no quarrel with what Kishore has to say about regionalism and the UN. But his first lesson -- that small states must always behave like small states --is muddled, mendacious and indeed dangerous.

Kishore once never tired of saying that we must 'punch above our weight'. He obviously has changed his mind.

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Kishore Mahbubani 30 June at 21:44

"I would like to emphasise as strongly as I can that this Qatar episode holds many lessons for Singapore. We ignore them at our peril."

Read more at: straitstimes.com/opinion/qatar-big-lessons-from-a-small-country

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PM Lee Hsien Loong at G20 Leaders' Summit in Hamburg

Met leaders of Argentina, the European Union, Japan, and the United States on the sidelines of the #G20 Summit. The meetings went well, including my first meetings with Argentina (President Macri) and the US (President Trump).

During the G20 working lunch, I explained why countries should embrace technological disruption. Change will happen anyway, even if we try to stop it. Far better to benefit from it by preparing ourselves and our people.

Off to Munich tomorrow. Looking forward to meeting Singaporeans there for an early National Day 🇸🇬 Reception! – LHL

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related:
Singapore - Isreal Bilateral Ties
Singapore - China Bilateral Ties
Singapore-India Relations
Singapore-China-US Relations
"Singapore - US" Bilateral Ties
Singapore China G-to-G Projects