SINGAPORE'S Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday described as "inaccurate and misleading" an article in China's Global Times newspaper that made references to remarks made by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at an international conference in Tokyo in May.
At a session during the Nikkei International Conference on the Future of Asia, Mr Lee was asked by a questioner whether it was necessary for countries to cooperate together to have "close enclosure" against China.
The MFA said Mr Lee decisively rejected this approach in his reply and said that this would not be helpful, and that he would not criticise China.
Titled "Lee Hsien Loong: China could gain Diaoyu Islands but lose its international standing," the report was published on Wednesday on the website of the state-owned Global Times, which is known for taking a populist and nationalistic slant to news.
Responding to media queries on the report, the MFA spokesman said that the article had used a sensationalistic headline and took Mr Lee's comments "completely out of context and grossly distorted and misreported what he said".
"Such unprofessional reporting is unhelpful and could harm bilateral relations and affect people-to-people ties," MFA added.
It said Mr Lee made a number of additional comments that noted that countries in the region benefited from China's development; that China itself saw it necessary to develop peacefully in a way which was non-threatening to its neighbours; and China will calculate that any gains from a non-peaceful approach to territorial disputes will have to be weighed against broader implications for its reputation and standing in the world.
Thus, Mr Lee had noted, that it would not be "constructive" to say "let us make a friendship amongst all the countries which are frightened of China."
Mr Lee spoke on the record and his comments were made as a good friend of China and put across China's position fairly, the MFA said in a statement that included a transcript of remarks he made at the Nikkei conference.
"Any dispassionate observer will conclude that PM Lee was balanced in his assessment. PM Lee was trying to be helpful, not stir up tensions," the MFA said.