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    Jun 09, 2016

    S'pore refutes claim of hostility towards China


    IT IS not true that tiny Singapore would always shelter itself under the "hegemonic power" of the United States and is hostile towards China on the disputes in the South China Sea, said Singapore's Ambassador to China.

    He was refuting the views of a Chinese researcher in a letter published yesterday in a Chinese newspaper.

    Stanley Loh, in his letter to the Global Times, cited many examples to show that amity has always been the norm in Sino-Singapore ties, such as the setting up of the Suzhou Industrial Park and Singapore's support of China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative - which aims to establish connectivity and cooperation across Euroasia.

    "For decades, Sino-Singapore relations have continued to expand and deepen. In keeping with the changing development needs and priorities of China, Singapore has been providing it up-to-date support," Mr Loh pointed out, citing the latest collaborative projects in Tianjin and Chongqing.

    Singapore believes that as China plays an increasingly important role in regional affairs, the contributions that the US could make towards regional stability and security would not necessarily be diminished, Mr Loh added.

    Citing a recent speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the ambassador said the US and China should forge a circle of friends in the region based on commonalities and not exclusion.

    "Singapore would be one of its members," said Mr Loh.

    Last week, an article in Global Times by Cheng Bifan, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, claimed that Singapore would always keep to the late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's policy of maintaining "strategic balance" in the region. This entails putting Singapore under the permanent protection of the US.

    Mr Cheng also said that Singapore's many "China bashing" speeches in recent times have alarmed his country. This includes Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's warning in 2013 that China would lose its status and reputation if it tried to take over the disputed islands "by force", he cited.

    The researcher also suggested that Singapore has shown itself to be more eager than the US in strengthening its presence in the region, such as allowing US littoral combat ships to be permanently stationed at Changi Naval Base.

    In yesterday's letter, Mr Loh conceded that China's rise has significantly changed the region's strategic environment, and that is felt most strongly by a small nation like Singapore.

    Stressing that Singapore does not want to see the disputes in the South China Sea take a negative turn, Mr Loh said his country adheres to upholding the principles that the area be open for freedom of flight and navigation.

    He also emphasised that Singapore supports resolving the disputes in the framework of the international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.