A Chinese newspaper editor has defended a report that criticised Singapore diplomats for raising the South China Sea issue at a recent multilateral summit.
Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin yesterday said he disagreed with Singapore's Ambassador to China Stanley Loh, who, in a letter to Mr Hu on Monday, refuted the allegations and said the daily's Sept 21 report "was replete with fabrications".
Mr Hu said the report on the Non-Aligned Movement's (NAM) 17th summit held in Venezuela two weeks ago reflected "the real situation" and that its sources were "serious and reliable". It was published in the Chinese edition of the daily.
He urged Singapore "to do a reflection and not pin labels on the Global Times, which reported the real situation".
The NAM was formed in 1961 by a group of newly independent countries that did not want to take sides in the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union.
In its report, the Global Times, which is linked to the Chinese Communist Party, said Singapore had raised the South China Sea territorial dispute and a July arbitral tribunal ruling on the dispute at the meeting.
Mr Loh on Monday said Singapore did not do any of those things and that the actions and words attributed to Singapore in the report were "false and unfounded".
Instead, Singapore adopted a "principled position" throughout the meeting and defended the Non-Aligned Movement's principles and established practices of asking to update the paragraphs on South-east Asia in a document that will guide the development of the grouping for the next three years.
But Mr Hu said as the envoy to China, Mr Loh was likely not at the meeting. "Maybe this was what your government wanted you to say," he added.
He also said Singapore "has gone too far on the South China Sea issue", and "has consciously or sub-consciously taken sides", being among the very small number of Asean nations that have actively promoted the South China Sea arbitration.
"Singapore is siding more openly with the US and Japan on the South China Sea issue," he wrote.
He ended the letter by saying he hopes "Singapore can play the role of country coordinator of China-Asean relations well, and win the respect of Global Times readers and the Chinese public at large".
Commenting on the exchange, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang yesterday said the ministry has noted the reports, and that the Non-Aligned Movement's summit was not a suitable forum to discuss the South China Sea issue.
"Some individual countries insisted on playing up the issue of the South China Sea in the final document, but this was not accepted by most of the Non-Aligned Movement's member states," the spokesman said at a press briefing. The contents also did not reflect the common understanding - including that of China's - surrounding the South China Sea issue, he said.
China and Singapore "should understand and respect each other's position when it comes to important issues surrounding each other's core interests", he added.
In a reply to Mr Hu's letter late last night, Mr Loh said the crux of the matter is that the Global Times report "did not accurately reflect the proceedings at the recent NAM Summit".
While the newspaper relied on unnamed sources for information, Singapore took part in all the proceedings at the summit, Mr Loh added.