‘Highly disruptive’ if Singapore were to take sides in US-China tensions: Shanmugam

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam spoke about US-China tensions in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. (PHOTOS: Reuters)
Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam spoke about US-China tensions in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. (PHOTOS: Reuters)
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SINGAPORE — Singapore would experience a destabilising impact if it were to take sides in the ongoing US-China tensions, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said.

In a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), which was published on Monday (19 September), Shanmugam said, “So obviously, we want the tensions to cool down and if we take sides, that is highly disruptive, either for our security or our economy or many other aspects.”

Shanmugam was also asked if there is a point of time when Singapore would have to choose sides between the two superpowers.

He reiterated it would not be in Singapore’s interests to do so. “But I think for us and many other countries in Southeast Asia, we wouldn't want to choose. But you're right, maybe at some point, we will be forced to make a choice, but Singapore's position is we will not make a choice,” he added.

Many global challenges ranging from climate change, nuclear issues to trade require the involvement of the US and China. It would be hard to achieve a “world solution” without the agreement of the superpowers, Shanmugam said.

“All of us are done for if they can’t agree on this and something happens…We are all subject to the vagaries of the tensions.”

His comments come as tensions between the US and China continue to fester after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August as part of her regional trip. Both countries have also been bickering over a wide range of other issues ranging from the South China Sea disputes, trade policies, intellectual property protection to the plight of the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang autonomous region.

Last month, Beijing announced new patrols around what it considers as the “renegade province” of Taiwan, which it has vowed repeatedly to take by force if necessary, while the Chinese military carried out drills including the firing of missiles that likely flew over Taipei.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also spoke about US-China tensions in his National Day broadcast and National Day Rally last month. Lee said on 8 August that the bilateral relations are characterised by “intractable issues, deep suspicions, and limited engagement between them".

In his interview with SMH, Shanmugam said Singapore consistently adheres to international principles and has stated its opposition to various global issues when warranted. Among them, Shanmugam cited Singapore’s refusal to vote in support of Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor in 1975, its opposition to the US invasion of Grenada in 1983, and its strong stance against Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Shanmugam was also asked about Singapore’s stance on drugs and the death penalty, the foreign interference bill, swimmer Joseph Schooling’s drug saga, and the repeal of Section 377A.

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