S'pore can't waver on need for rules-based order

Professor Kishore Mahbubani suggested that Singapore has not been displaying enough savviness regarding the disputes in the South China Sea, and that we should be more restrained in commenting (Qatar: Big lessons from a small country; July 1).

As a small trading nation, it is in our interest to trade and be friends with as many countries as possible.

Doing this has helped Singapore maintain good and mutually beneficial relations with many countries, including China.

Today, China is Singapore's largest trade partner and one of our largest sources of inbound tourism.

Indeed, as shown by the recent visit to China by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, more opportunities for both countries to cooperate with each other are in the pipeline.

Should Singapore make our position and concerns regarding the issues in the South China Sea known and risk irking China?

We should remain steadfastly clear that our core interest is open, safe and secure trade routes and freedom of navigation in the region, including in the South China Sea.

Although we do not have any territorial claims in the South China Sea, we must be unwavering in our support for the peaceful resolution of any disputes.

We should remain steadfastly clear that our core interest is open, safe and secure trade routes and freedom of navigation in the region, including in the South China Sea.

And that means showing our unwavering support for a rules-based order that protects the rights and privileges of all states, including small ones like Singapore.

Teo Jun Jie

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2017, with the headline 'S'pore can't waver on need for rules-based order'. Print Edition | Subscribe