World

How US, China engage is 'key to stability'

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at Munich Security Conference

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has called on both Washington and Beijing to spell out their foreign policy objectives in Asia, now that a new US administration is in charge.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday evening, he noted that how the US and China engage with each other and other Asian countries will have a significant impact on regional stability.

If the US adopts an anti-China stance, "it will be a frustrating decade ahead for many of us in Asean and in Asia", he told senior defence officials from around the world.

"Similarly for China, if its efforts are viewed as means to usurp the US as the resident Pacific power, countries will have to choose sides and be put into lose-win situations," he told the annual conference Germany has held since 1963.

Dr Ng was on a panel titled: "Pacific No More? Security in East Asia and the Korean Peninsula", chaired by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, that included Madam Fu Ying, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of China's National People's Congress, and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se.

Dr Ng said that if both countries conduct foreign policy on a transactional basis, such an approach would give rise to trading and even security blocs.

This could mean the US provides a security umbrella in exchange for trading and commercial privileges, or China uses security considerations to barter with countries that need access to Chinese markets.

That the US as a military power can continue its presence and influence in the Pacific is not in doubt, Dr Ng said.

"But this military prowess while necessary is insufficient for continued stability and progress in Asia," he added.

Dr Ng also called on China, as a rising power, to articulate its inclusive vision for Asia and beyond.

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