The Straits Times says

Making itself useful is Singapore's way

The choice of Singapore as the venue of next month's summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reflects the city-state's diplomatic prowess. Certainly, Singapore offers another advantage, that of security. Its importance cannot be over-emphasised in the organisation of talks between Mr Trump and Mr Kim. Considerations of security must have loomed large in the calculations of the White House. The security surrounding the American President is legendary, and understandably so. In the case of the North Korean leader, his physical security not only symbolises that of his state but underpins it materially as well because of the highly personalised nature of the regime. Singapore has a track record of holding international gatherings free of security incidents or disruptive public protests.

However, the larger point is the diplomatic one: Singapore works hard at being no one's enemy. Thus, it refused to demonise the Soviet Union during the Cold War although its economic and strategic interests lay clearly with the West. Its determined diplomatic opposition to the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia was not born of ideological hostility to Vietnam's Leninist system but of a refusal to accept the invasion as a fait accompli. In like spirit, Singapore treated China as a great power with legitimate interests; Beijing's political system was a domestic matter. Singapore punches above its weight in world affairs because it does not throw ideological punches. Neutrality comes naturally to a small state, as it should, unless an international issue impinges on its sovereign interest. Being neutral does not mean having no view and never speaking up when it matters.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2018, with the headline 'Making itself useful is Singapore's way'. Print Edition | Subscribe