Singapore

'As a small state, Singapore must not be bullied': Vivian Balakrishnan

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan outlines S'pore's foreign policy

The ultimate goals of Singapore's foreign policy are to protect its independence and sovereignty, and expand opportunities for its citizens, said Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday.

To achieve this as a small country, Singapore will be friends with everyone while advancing its interests, he said.

He was speaking at a town hall with about 200 foreign service officers and other civil servants at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

"There is no contradiction between a realistic appreciation of realpolitik and doing whatever it takes to protect our sovereignty, maintain and expand our relevance, and to create political and economic space for ourselves," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan outlined five core principles that guide Singapore's foreign policy.

First, it is important to keep the economy vibrant and successful, and society stable and united.

Second, Singapore must not be a vassal state and needs to show it cannot be bought or bullied. For this, Singapore has built up a credible armed forces.

Third, Singapore must aim to be a friend to all, and an enemy to none. This means working to ensure peace and stability in the immediate neighbourhood, and also building political and economic relationships with superpowers and regional powers so that "they will find our success in their own interest".

Said Dr Balakrishnan: "We don't compromise our national interests in order to have good relations... so when others make unreasonable demands that hurt... our national interests, we need to state our position and stand our ground in a firm and principled manner."

Fourth, Singapore must promote a global order governed by the rule of law, international norms and peaceful resolutions.

Without such a system, small states like Singapore have "very little chance of survival".

Dr Balakrishnan also warned against appeasement, saying that Singapore must be clear about its long-term interests, and "have the gumption to make our foreign policy decisions accordingly".

He said Singapore stood firm to protect its interests even when it was inconvenient, such as when it caned American teenager Michael Fay in 1994 for vandalism, and when it hanged two Indonesian marines in 1968 for bombing MacDonald House during Konfrontasi.

Fifth, the Republic must be a "credible and consistent" partner. Countries take Singapore seriously because it does not "tell them what they want to hear", Dr Balakrishnan said.

"They try harder to make Singapore take their side precisely because they know that our words mean something. We are honest brokers. We deal fairly and openly with all parties."

He also referred to a recent debate by some academics and retired officials on how Singapore should act as a small state.

"We may always be a small state, but all the more reason we need the courage of our convictions and the resolution to secure the long term interests of all our citizens," Dr Balakrishnan said.

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