Singapore poised to maintain regional peace

Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam's summation of the pressures that are buffeting this nation from China, the United States and Japan in the region is very well considered (" 'Adroit diplomacy needed to tackle pressure from big powers' "; Aug 28).

While we have also vested interests with these powers - such as trade and defence - such pressure is due to the dramatic change in geopolitics.

Thus, their search for new equilibriums affects us.

The minister said the challenges ahead will subject us to even more pressure to take sides.

The adroit solution is, ironically, to continue not to take sides at all.

While Mr Shanmugam admits that we may not have the luxury of space to be friends with everyone, it is precisely for this reason that we have to work hard towards not taking sides.

We have managed race relations internally.

We are in Asean, and understand its complexities. Certainly, we understand the Chinese.

Because our official working language is English, we get to know how the US administration thinks, feels and functions.

Although we know Japan only too well from the Japanese Occupation, we are also appreciative of its help in our early industrialisation.

Because we are still friends with all these parties, we are, thus, aptly poised to be the harbinger of peace and harmony to this region.

To do so, we cannot take sides, however much we are persuaded or threatened.

By staying on neutral ground, we can avoid traps, and rally the help of all Asean to come forward as joint peacemakers.

Small as we are, we have the right to survive and so does Asean. And for that, the big powers should recognise the region's need for continued peace, notwithstanding its internal differences.

Cyril Seah Kwei Hiok

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2015, with the headline 'Singapore poised to maintain regional peace'. Print Edition | Subscribe