Singapore's foreign policy a fine balancing act

I was heartened to see Singapore vote in favour of the UN General Assembly resolution rejecting the US attempt to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Washington's unilateral move would inflame tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians .

Sober negotiation is the best way to achieve consensus on this complex and sensitive issue.

It is worrying, however, that the Trump administration has decided to treat a vote for the resolution as an attempt to "single it out for attack."

While President Donald Trump's foreign policy rhetoric has often proven inconsistent, Singapore cannot dismiss the possibility that defying the American position on this issue may strain ties with Washington[1].

This is especially considering the significant power differential between Singapore and the US: As a superpower, the US could punish Singapore, a small country, at relatively little cost to itself.

The US is a key strategic partner. Both countries enjoy deep trade ties with one another, with US investment serving as a powerful engine for job creation for Singapore[2].

Security-wise, US engagement in South-east Asia is an important guarantor of regional stability; Washington has invested heavily in significant bilateral and multilateral security and defence agreements[3].

To the extent that Washington is genuinely offended by the UN resolution, it could carry out its threat of reprisal over the Jerusalem vote by weakening its commitment to such initiatives to the detriment of Singapore's economic and security interests [4].

Such tensions come amid the increasing assertiveness of China, the other regional great power.

[5]Our foreign policy depends on robust ties with regional great powers[6]. While Singapore must stand up for its national interests and international rule of law, we must also seek to strengthen hard-won ties with China and the US as far as possible.

Ng Qi Siang