HONG KONG - Beijing should impose sanctions and retaliate against Singapore to make the Republic “pay the price for seriously damaging China’s interests”, an influential Chinese defence adviser reportedly told state radio.
The remarks by Professor Jin Yinan, director of the strategic research institute at the PLA’s National Defence University, is the latest salvo from China in a recent war of words over the South China Sea territorial spat.
The row erupted after the Global Times, a Chinese newspaper known for its often nationalistic reporting, claimed that Singapore insisted on adding contents that endorsed the Philippines’ South China Sea arbitration case against China in the final document of the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Venezuela last month.
The report prompted Singapore's Ambassador to China Stanley Loh to issue a written rebuttal, saying Singapore did not raise the South China Sea or the tribunal ruling in Manila's favour at the NAM Summit. The proposal to update the South-east Asia paragraphs in the NAM document, said Mr Loh, was the consensus position of all 10 Asean members.
But Jin, in an interview with state-owned China National Radio on Thursday, accused Singapore of taking an active role in turning the South China Sea dispute into an international issue in recent years, South China Morning Post reported on Saturday (Oct 1).
Singapore, Jin said, had advised Washington on the matter and stirred up conflicts between the US and China.
“It’s inevitable for China to strike back at Singapore, and not just on the public opinion front,” Jin was quoted as saying according to SCMP.
“Since Singapore has gone thus far, we have got to do something, be it retaliation or sanction. We must express our discontent.”
Jin confirmed to SCMP he had talked to CNR on Thursday and criticised Singapore, but he refused to detail what measures China might take to punish the country.
Lee Kuan Yew had 'lost Beijing's respect'
Jin has been part of China’s delegation to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security forum in Singapore, for the past two years.
In his interview with CNR, Jin said Singapore Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong devoted his entire one-hour speech at last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue to the matter.
“What’s the full name of the Shangri-La Dialogue? Is it the Asia Security Summit? There are so many topics about Asian security, including unbalanced development, pollution, environment, climate, terrorism, racial problems ... But all the problems were ignored and the focus was just on China’s South China Sea disputes,” Jin was quoted as saying in the SCMP report.
“Who set up such a main topic?"
Jin said the Singapore government, which jointly organised the forum with British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies, had played the key role in sending the disputes to the top of the agenda.
The PLA major general also criticised late Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, saying that it was on his advice to US President Barack Obama that caused Washington to turn its “pivot to Asia” into “the rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific”.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew had lost Beijing’s respect, said Jin.
“We understand [Singapore] has to survive among big countries,” he said. “But now Singapore is not seeking balance among big countries – it is playing big countries off against each other ... this is playing with fire.”
Jin questioned whether Singapore was remaining neutral between China and the United States. He also highlighted the strategic value of Singapore’s Changi Naval Base to the US military, which stations littoral combat ships at the base.
But Jin said by opening the base to the Americans, Singapore was helping the US to establish a presence in an area crucial to China’s oil imports.
“Singapore claims it is a non-aligned country and its Changi Naval Base is an open port. But why don’t you invite the Chinese navy to berth at it?”
Spat 'reveals Singapore's true stance'
Meanwhile the Global Times has published another article critical of Singapore.
In a commentary run on Friday, the paper said the war of words over the NAM summit document "has revealed the true face of Singapore to the Chinese public".
While China feels affinity towards Singapore because of the countries' shared ethnic heritage and admiration for the Republic's success, Singapore doesn't feel such brotherly affection for China, the article said.
Instead, it added, "Singaporeans have fully embraced the Western world, sharing similar values and looking at global affairs from a Western perspective. They find more common ground with the US than with China over regional matters".
It called for China to abandon any "impractical illusions towards the city-state in terms of political affairs".
"It must be treated as an ordinary player in international politics and a close military partner of the US in the Asia-Pacific, which China can work with for mutual benefits, and can also be tough with when it crosses the line."