Singapore does not take sides in foreign policy: Chan Chun Sing

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing says Singapore does not take sides with any country in its foreign policy.
Labour chief Chan Chun Sing says Singapore does not take sides with any country in its foreign policy. PHOTO: REUTERS

Republic adopts principle-based stand as it needs global system based on rules and inclusiveness: Chan Chun Sing

Singapore does not take sides with any country but adopts a principle-based and independent stand in its foreign policy driven by its own interests, said labour chief Chan Chun Sing.

That is because as a small country with few resources, it needs a global system that is based on rules, principles and inclusiveness, he added, speaking to Chinese youth at a dialogue in Beijing yesterday.

"We don't side with any party. We only pursue a world order grounded on principles and openness," said Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

His remarks come as spotlight is cast over Singapore's role as country-coordinator of China-Asean relations and as a mutual friend of both the United States and China, which have clashed over the South China Sea territorial disputes between Beijing and several South- east Asian nations.

A special Asean-China foreign ministers' meeting held last month in south-western Yunnan province ended with no clear consensus on handling the South China Sea issue. Chinese media have also run commentaries in recent months questioning whether Singapore is taking sides with Beijing or Washington.

In his 45-minute speech to about 50 students at the Renmin University, Mr Chan cited two instances to show how Singapore has acted independently in its foreign policy, despite external pressure.

It executed two Indonesian marines for staging attacks in the Republic in 1965 during the Konfrontasi period, and also expelled an American diplomat in 1988 for interfering in Singapore politics.

Mr Chan added that Singapore, despite its small size, hopes to play a positive role in global affairs, be it in the Global Governance Group, the Group of 20 economies, or the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank spearheaded by China.

Mr Chan, who was visiting Beijing yesterday as chairman of the People's Action Party youth wing, met with Mr Qin Yizhi, chief of the Communist Youth League, the youth wing of the Communist Party.

In his meeting with National Development and Reform Commission vice-chairman He Lifeng, both men reviewed the progress of the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative (CCI) since its launch last November.

Mr Chan is in Chongqing till tomorrow to attend meetings related to the CCI - the third government- led project between both countries after the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-city.

In his speech, Mr Chan cited the three projects to illustrate how Singapore has supported China's development and changing needs over the years. He said there are growing opportunities for cooperation as both countries are facing similar challenges such as achieving sustainable growth, maintaining social harmony and meeting their youth's aspirations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore 'does not take sides in foreign policy''. Print Edition | Subscribe