What kind of neutrality for S'pore?

Mr Douglas Chua Hock Lye's letter ("Singapore must remain neutral in South China Sea row"; Tuesday) makes sense, especially since we are not a claimant nation.

But what kind of neutrality should we adopt?

Not taking sides is one form of neutrality, perhaps the most essential one. But we should do more than just that.

In meetings Singapore is participating in, if one party in the dispute says something which we feel may not help resolve the row, should we just remain quiet?

If we feel that the current stalemate or tension may develop into conflicts, should we not take some pre-emptive action, perhaps together with other non-claimant nations, to prevent or defuse the tension?

Unavoidably, the opinions we express or actions we take, no matter how well intentioned they are, can sometimes be seen as interference or, worse, taking sides.

It is not easy to be neutral on the dispute, and, at the same time, a responsible member country in the region.

With tensions escalating, it would not be in our interests to stay indifferent or apathetic.

We should always stick firmly to the good principles, demeanour and protocol used in international affairs, and we should always be willing to do our part towards resolving the dispute peacefully.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'What kind of neutrality for S'pore?'. Print Edition | Subscribe