ST: S'pore, China agree to draw closer - 11/02/2012

11 Feb 2012

Both sides pledge to work together to boost stability in the region

BEIJING: China and Singapore yesterday vowed to boost bilateral ties by increasing exchanges, contacts and cooperation.

The drive to draw closer was announced during a meeting between China's Vice-Premier Li Keqiang and visiting Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, who was making an introductory trip to the Chinese capital.

During a 30-minute meeting at the scenic Zhongnanhai complex, where China's top leaders work, issues such as Asean-China and US-China ties were discussed, and both sides agreed to work closely, especially on regional and global issues of common concern.

'The continued stability and peace in the region is of great importance,' said Mr Shanmugam. Agreeing, Mr Li said both countries had played an active role in promoting peace, stability and development in Asia.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of rising regional tension over competing claims by countries like China, Vietnam and the Philippines to disputed territory in the South China Sea.

A beefed-up American military presence in the region in the wake of a recently announced 'Pacific pivot' by the US has also raised concerns in China. Meanwhile, countries in the region have also expressed alarm at what they see as a more aggressive China.

Yesterday, Mr Li gave the assurance China would continue to develop peacefully and work with Singapore and other Asian countries to expand common interests and realise common prosperity.

In turn, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore would maintain close contact and coordination with China on global and regional issues of common concern, Xinhua news agency reported.

China hopes to boost exchanges with Singapore across all levels and areas, such as trade and economics as well as the humanities, said Mr Li, who is tipped to take over from Premier Wen Jiabao during a leadership handover later this year.

China and Singapore are close neighbours and friends and have developed a long-lasting relationship in their 22 years of diplomatic relations, he added.

Last year, China was Singapore's third-largest trading partner after the European Union and Malaysia, with $101.4 billion in trade; Singapore is, in turn, China's seventh-largest accumulative investor, with US$46.8 billion (S$59 billion) invested in China as of end 2010.

Yesterday, Mr Shanmugam also met his counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. Both men reviewed bilateral relations and agreed on the need for continued government support for the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-City projects.

They also explored new areas of cooperation in finance and cultural exchange.

Indeed, there are plans for a China Culture Centre to be set up in Singapore to boost people-to-people exchanges.

Kai Kai and Jia Jia, the pair of giant pandas China is lending to Singapore, are also slated to move into their new home at the Singapore Zoo next month.

The Chinese leaders also highlighted the crucial role played by high-level exchanges in keeping up the momentum of bilateral ties, and welcomed the visit of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to China later this year.

Mr Li also accepted invitations to visit Singapore at a mutually convenient time.

Mr Yang is confident that Sino-Singapore ties can make progress in the new year, but also voiced some concerns.

'Bilateral relations are in good shape, but at the same time, we face a very complex international environment,' Mr Yang said, without elaborating.

In response, Mr Shanmugam said it was good for both sides to talk about peace and stability in the region.

'You probably know that I have just come from the United States and we also had a frank exchange of views there. I'm looking forward to a good discussion,' he told Mr Yang.

While in the US, Mr Shanmugam warned that antagonistic rhetoric towards China among parts of the American establishment and media was a mistake that could give rise to unintended problems in the region.

He told a high-level conference there that a policy to contain China was untenable, adding: 'The world and Asia are big enough to accommodate both a rising China and a reinvigorated US.'

Mr Shanmugam also held talks with China's Minister for Public Security Meng Jianzhu yesterday. Last night, he was hosted to dinner by Culture Minister Cai Wu yesterday.

He is accompanied on his three-day visit by former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs Sam Tan and other Foreign Affairs Ministry officials. He returns to Singapore today.

Source: Straits Times

Travel Page