Singapore wants to remain good friends with US and China: PM Lee
Singapore is a multicultural, independent and sovereign country with its own position on issues, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, as he set out the implications that United States-China tensions have on the country's relations with both powers.
He stressed yesterday that Singaporeans must fully understand the country's national interests and the Government's considerations in adopting its foreign policy positions.
"We must always be principled in our approach, and not swayed by emotions," Mr Lee said in his Mandarin speech at the National Day Rally. "When we can agree with either major power, we will do so. When we cannot, we must maintain and explain our stand."
Apart from China, Singapore is the only sovereign country with an ethnic Chinese-majority population, Mr Lee noted. Being a Chinese-majority country can put Singapore in a difficult position on the international stage, he said, as its words and actions may be easily misunderstood.
"If we support China, the US and other countries may think we do so because we are a majority-Chinese country and therefore accede to China."
But China may misunderstand if Singapore supports the US, he added.
Mr Lee stressed that Singapore is good friends with both China and the US, and wants to remain so.
The US is a major security partner, he said, noting that Singapore buys advanced military equipment from the US, trains with its troops and cooperates with it on counter-terrorism. On the economic front, the value and scale of US companies' investments in Singapore outstrip those of any other country.
"We hope the US will continue to remain engaged in the Asia-Pacific, and continue to safeguard regional peace and stability," Mr Lee said. "This ensures the security and prosperity of the whole region."
Meanwhile, Singapore's relations with China are unique, he said, adding that having a shared heritage and culture helps foster good ties between them.
Mr Lee said Singapore and China have also established an "all-round cooperative partnership progressing with the times". Both governments have cooperated on projects in Suzhou, Tianjin and Chongqing, and China is Singapore's largest export market. Singapore companies have sizeable investments there, as do Chinese companies here.
"But even as we engage and cooperate with each other, we should always remember that we are Singaporean. We have our own history and culture, and also our own perspectives and political stands on current affairs," he added.