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Shanmugam discusses need for US to deal with rising China

Singapore's Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam is currently in Washington DC for a week of meetings with key US leaders, but he has also spoken in a slightly more unusual setting -- the American Jewish Committee Global Forum.

WASHINGTON DC: Singapore's Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam is currently in Washington DC for a week of meetings with key US leaders, but he has also spoken in a slightly more unusual setting -- the American Jewish Committee Global Forum.

The forum has become something of a platform for international figures to air their views on world events, and Mr Shanmugam used his address to discuss the need for the US to deal with a rising China.

The forum is a chance for Jews from across the US and the world to come together to meet leading international figures, and discuss their views on global events.

This year, to reflect the Obama administration's continued rebalancing towards the Asia Pacific, the committee wanted to hear not just from an Asian country, but from one with consistently strong ties to Israel.

That is why they invited Singapore's foreign minister.

Shira Loewenberg, director of the American Jewish Committee Asia Pacific Institute, said: “The concerns of the Asia Pacific region and those that are of particular importance to Singapore are our concerns as well.

“We support a peaceful Pacific region -- recently there have been tensions there between many Asian countries.”

And those tensions were certainly picked up on in Mr Shanmugam's speech, which was unflinching in its assessment of the challenges America will face as China becomes more dominant.

Mr Shanmugam said: “While Washington and Beijing may use similar terms and words, it is not clear that they both mean the same thing. Tensions, spats in the East China and South China Seas are an indication of how these dynamics work.

“The United States is trying to urge all claimants not to resort to aggression and ask for a reduction of tensions. To some extent, this reflects the new reality. The United States now needs the co-operation of others, and asks for it.”

But he was also clear about the potential benefits to the US of closer economic ties to the region, especially through the still-to-be-finalised Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“US engagement in East Asia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be game changers. For the United States, the TPP alone will create nearly 700,000 new jobs by 2025.

“Every thinking American has got to be thinking about this,” said Mr Shanmugam.

Mr Shanmugam ended his speech at the AJC forum by quoting the ancient Chinese curse – “may you live in interesting times.”

With the current rise of Beijing, and the need for cool heads to deal with it in Washington, he said these are indeed interesting times, but ones that could also lead to ever more fruitful partnerships between the US and Asia, in what he called the “Pacific Century” to come.  

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