Singapore and China have a broad and longstanding relationship and their common interest in building a peaceful region is "much greater" than their occasional differences of views, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has said.
"We share similar views on most issues, and have worked well together to advance these common interests," he told Chinese news agency Xinhua in an e-mail interview ahead of his visit to Beijing that started yesterday.
"But even among close neighbours and friends, there may be different perspectives on some issues, given that countries have different size, history, vulnerabilities, and geographical location," he added.
He was replying to a question on recent "frictions" in Sino-Singapore relations "at the government and people-to-people level". He was also asked how the two sides could work together to enhance mutual trust.
"Singapore will continue to be a strong supporter of China's peaceful development and constructive engagement in the region," he said.
Singapore and China have a broad and longstanding relationship. We share similar views on most issues, and have worked well together to advance these common interests. But even among close neighbours and friends, there may be different perspectives on some issues, given that countries have different size, history, vulnerabilities, and geographical location. But the fundamental position of our two countries, that we share a common interest in the peaceful growth and development of our two countries and the region, remains the same. Our common interest in building a peaceful and growing region is much greater than any occasional differences of views.
DPM TEO CHEE HEAN
Last September, there was an exchange of letters between Singapore's Ambassador to China, Mr Stanley Loh, and Mr Hu Xijin, the editor of Chinese newspaper Global Times, after the latter published a report criticising Singapore's diplomats for raising the South China Sea issue at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Venezuela.
In November, Hong Kong Customs detained nine Singapore Armed Forces armoured vehicles on board a container ship transiting there.
They were bound for Singapore after a military exercise in Taiwan.
In referring to progress in the bilateral relationship, Mr Teo also said that Singapore has consistently abided by its "one China" policy. Singapore has formal diplomatic ties with China but also informal ties with Taiwan.
On Singapore's role as country coordinator for Asean-China cooperation, he said the Republic will do its best to strengthen and deepen cooperation between the two sides. However, he also noted that it was not easy to reach a consensus on every issue among the 10 members of Asean and China.
"What is important is to maintain close communication so that we can expand on our common interests and reduce differences," he added.
Mr Teo was also asked about Singapore's role in China's initiative for a modern-day maritime Silk Road to link economically countries along the sea route from China to South-east Asia and the Middle East.
He said Singapore, as a key hub for trade and infrastructure financing and one of the largest offshore yuan centres, was well-placed to support the growing number of Chinese firms venturing into markets along the Belt and Road, in reference also to the land route from China to the West, referred to as the Belt.
"There are many opportunities for Singapore and Chinese companies to work together on the "Belt and Road" projects in areas such as transport and logistics, mixed-use park developments, construction materials and financing," he said.
Mr Teo is in Beijing for the 13th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, a high-level platform for deepening and broadening ties between the two sides that he co-chairs with Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli and which takes place today.