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On continued US-China skirmish, Singapore should not be “swayed by emotions” – PM Lee

The PM admitted that Singapore is in a difficult position as it tries to remain neutral despite being a Chinese majority country that has considerable ties with Washington

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In the midst of continuing strife between the US and China, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the only path forward is for the country to “always be principled in our approach, and not swayed by emotions.”

He declared this neutrality during his all-inclusive speech delivered in Malay, Chinese and English on Sunday and stressed that Singapore will resolutely stick to its policy of maintaining good ties with the United States and China even as the two super powers continue to parry and skirmish at each other.

The prime minister admitted the difficulty Singapore is being confronted with as it tries to maintain a neutral position due to the pressures of being a Chinese-majority country that has considerable security ties with Washington.

“Being a Chinese-majority country can at times put us in a difficult position, because our words and actions may be easily misunderstood,” Lee said in his National Day Rally speech, an annual policy address.

“If we support China, the US and other countries may think we do so because we are a majority-Chinese country and therefore accede to China,” the leader said in his Chinese speech. On the other hand, if Singapore supports Washington, China would also misunderstand Singapore’s motives.
“In fact, on occasions when Singapore and China have held different views in the past, some of our friends from China have asked us: ‘Since we share a common language, a common ancestry and a common heritage, why does Singapore not share a common view?’” the prime minister added.
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PM Lee also underscored how Singapore has been stuck in the middle as it forges strong security ties with the US, through the purchase of advanced equipment from the Western superpower, while the Singapore Armed Forces exercises with American troops. Not to mention the huge investments made by US companies which are higher than those from any other country.

On the other hand, Singapore has a shared heritage and culture with China which has helped foster the two countries’ bilateral relations.

Referring to the continued and increasing conflict between the two major powers, PM Lee stressed that “If the situation gets much worse, we will promptly respond with appropriate interventions to sustain the livelihoods of our workers … We are prepared. We have experienced cyclical downturns like this in the past, and we are confident we can take this one in our stride.”

Aside from committed neutrality, PM Lee during his National Day Rally speech also addressed a throng of issues, including a multi-billion dollar “50- to 100-year plan” to fortify the island nation from rising sea levels, a staggered increase in the official retirement age, and significant increases in financial aid for preschool and tertiary education. -/TISG

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