S'pore not target in Viet unrest, says Shanmugam

THE riots in Vietnam may have taken place in Singapore-run industrial parks, but Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said he does not believe the anger is targeted at Singapore.

Asked about Singapore's involvement in the unrest in Vietnam over its territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, he said: "I don't think Singapore is being dragged into it; it just happens that this industrial park has a number of Chinese companies who operate out of there.

"We haven't fully investigated but that seems to be the reason for the protest and the attacks."

He also told Singapore reporters at a briefing on Thursday that he did not have enough information to comment on reports that a Singapore flag was burned by protesters.

Mr Shanmugam, who was in Washington on a week-long visit to the United States, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not issuing a travel advisory for Singaporeans in or headed to Vietnam.

The ministry has, however, raised its concerns with the Vietnamese authorities.

"We think that (attacks) shouldn't happen, and authorities need to stop that from happening. In the end, people come, they invest, they believe in structure and they believe security will be guaranteed and, really, we believe it's incumbent on the government to guarantee that."

On whether he was confident that the government would be able to preserve order, he said: "We have been assured and I see no reason to disbelieve those assurances."

The remarks were the first from Mr Shanmugam since anti-China protesters attacked factories in two Singapore-run industrial parks earlier this week.

The attacks appeared to have been triggered by tensions over an oil rig that China deployed in the South China Sea.

Mr Shanmugam said Singapore does not take sides on the territorial claims but wants to have disputes settled peacefully.

"That's what the declaration of conduct is all about and that's why we need to get on with a code of conduct," he said, referring to two Asean instruments, the first in place since 2002 and the second being negotiated, to manage territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

JEREMY AU YONG

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