US: Singapore FM concludes US visit; urges caution on anti-China rhetoric, greater investment in ASEAN

Updated On: Feb 09, 2012

Singapore Foreign Minister Mr K Shanmugam was in the United States on a week-long introductory visit in his new capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs. During his visit to Washington, Mr Shanmugam cautioned the US on comments regarding the “containment” of China, while urging the US to invest more in ASEAN. Also present in the US were Mr S Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs, as well as Mr Heng Swee Keat, Second Minister for Trade and Industry and Minister for Education.

Mr Shanmugam cautions US on anti-China rhetoric

Mr Shanmugam on Wednesday cautioned the US on comments regarding China, warning that remarks implying a containment strategy of the rising power, as well as casting Asian politics in “win/lose sporting terms” could raise tensions in Asia.

Mr Shanmugam made the remarks in the Singapore Conference organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a leading think-tank in Washington.

During the CSIS Conference, Mr Shanmugam and Mr Iswaran shared their views on a range of foreign policy, economic and educational issues, and exchanged viewpoints with their US counterparts, including Dr Kurt Campbell, the top US diplomat for East Asia.The conference capped Mr Shanmugam’s visit as he prepares to leave for China, his next destination.

Mr Shanmugam told the conference, “Domestic pressures in the US and the demands of elections have resulted in some anti-China rhetoric in domestic debates… We in Singapore understand that some of this is inevitable in an election year. But Americans should not underestimate the extent to which such rhetoric can spark reaction which can create a new and unintended reality for the region.”

“[China] is determined to progress in all fields and take its rightful place in the community of nations. It will succeed in that venture,” Mr Shanmugam added.

Even as the US looks set to reduce military spending, it has “pivoted” towards Asia with China’s rise set to change the region. The US military has sought closer military ties with the Philippines and Vietnam, both of which are embroiled in territorial disputes with China.

Mr Shanmugam said that the US should also look at other methods to engage Asia such as pushing forward the Trans-Pacific Partnership, remarking that it would be “a mistake to focus only on the US military presence in the region, to the exclusion of other dimensions of US policy.”

Mr Shanmugam did not mention any examples of “anti-China” rhetoric in the US, but in recent months a number of US officials have sharpened their rhetoric and raised fears China’s rise.

Report: Singapore warns US on anti-China rhetoric [AFP, 8 Feb 2012]

Report: Shanmugam visits US for introductory visit [Channel News Asia, 31 Jan 2012]

Mr Shanmugam, Mr Iswaran call upon US to invest more in ASEAN

Mr Shanmugam also urged the US to tap into ASEAN’s economic potential, saying the city-state’s investments in the US are an example of a regional partner that has generated massive benefits for the US economy, such as jobs and trade surplus. US firms also pulled in US$16.72 billion (S$20.8 billion) in profits from their investments in Singapore.

“If Singapore, the smallest country in ASEAN and the one with the fewest resources, can provide such economic benefits to the US, consider the immense economic potential of greater engagement of larger and more resource-rich countries in ASEAN such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia,” Mr Shanmugam added.

Mr Shanmugam met with key US foreign policy officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and signed three new documents to deepen bilateral ties and cooperation, including the formal establishment of yearly strategic discussions between US and Singapore diplomats, as well as a pact to collaborate on development projects in the Lower Mekong region.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat also signed a new memorandum of understanding with US counterpart Arne Duncan to further develop bilateral cooperation in education.

In his speech to the CSIS Singapore Conference, Mr Shanmugam remarked that ASEAN countries were feeling confident with strong economic growth and positive political developments in countries like Myanmar. Even though the uncertain US economy remains a major source of worries for ASEAN, that could in turn drive the US to do more to tap into ASEAN’s economic potential and broaden its ties beyond the security and diplomatic realms.

Mr Iswaran echoed the views in his speech, saying that today’s Asia is “just what the doctor ordered” for US recovery. As Asian countries trade more with each other, the US should not be left out, Mr Iswaran said.

Mr Shanmugam’s next destination will be China, where he will meet his counterpart Yang Jiechi and other Chinese leaders from Thursday to Saturday.

Report: Tap ASEAN's potential, Shanmugam urges US [Straits Times, 9 Feb 2012]

Report: US urged to seize Asia trade opportunities [Straits Times, 9 Feb 2012]

Report: China an extremely important partner for Singapore: Shanmugam [Straits Times, 7 Feb 2012]

Related Article