SINGAPORE: Singapore's Ambassador to China Stanley Loh on Tuesday (Sep 27) took issue with the Global Times' response to an earlier letter expressing "disappointment" over its article on the recent Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Venezuela.
"Global Times did not attend the meetings and had to rely on information from unnamed sources. In contrast, Singapore is a member of NAM and had participated in all the proceedings at the summit," wrote Mr Loh in a letter to Global Times' editor-in-chief Hu Xijin.
A day earlier, he had first written to Mr Hu, saying the newspaper had "attributed actions and words to Singapore which are false and unfounded". He also requested that the Global Times carry his letter in full.
Mr Hu had responded to Mr Loh's letter on Monday, stating that he cannot agree with Mr Loh's stand that the tabloid had "fabricated" claims.
"In your letter, I noticed you admitted that the NAM chair Venezuela rejected Singapore's request (to update the Southeast Asia paragraphs of the NAM Final Document). Why did they choose to do so?" the tabloid's editor-in-chief said. "You avoided responding to that particular point and only emphasised that their actions were wrong. The Global Times' report only serves to explain the reasons and details of the point that you did not elaborate on."
"China has long considered Singapore as a friend, but it needs to be pointed out that on the issue of the South China Sea dispute, especially before and after the Hague's ruling on the matter, what Singapore has done has been extremely disappointing," Mr Hu wrote.
He added that even though Singapore is not a claimant state in the South China Sea, it has consciously or unconsciously taken a side and appears "biased towards the Philippines and Vietnam", holding a similar stance to the United States and Japan.
"Looking at how many ASEAN countries have handled the sensitive issue of the South China Sea dispute in a balanced manner, I think Singapore should feel ashamed of how it has treated its top trading partner, China. I think, Ambassador, you should encourage your country to reflect on its actions, and not attack Global Times' factual report," Mr Hu said in his letter.
Ambassador Loh's response is reproduced as follows:
Dear Editor-in-Chief Hu,
I refer to your response to my letter of Sep 26, 2016.
The crux of the matter is that Global Times’ report dated 21 Sep 2016 did not accurately reflect the proceedings at the recent NAM Summit. Global Times did not attend the meetings and had to rely on information from unnamed sources. In contrast, Singapore is a member of NAM and had participated in all the proceedings at the Summit. Consequently, I have related the facts and this account can be verified by the public record of the meeting.
By the way, you misread my letter. The NAM Chair did not reject Singapore’s request. In fact, the NAM Chair improperly rejected ASEAN’s collective request to update the Southeast Asia paragraphs to reflect the consensus of all ten ASEAN Member States. That is why Laos as Chair of ASEAN wrote to the Venezuelan Foreign Minister to put on record ASEAN’s reservation to a paragraph in the Southeast Asia section of the NAM Final Document. You failed to mention this ASEAN Chair letter which I had enclosed in my earlier letter to you. I have appended it again for your attention.
The other points you had raised are not relevant to the issue of the veracity of Global Times’ report. Singapore has consistently adopted a clear and principled position. Our leaders have already addressed those issues on numerous previous occasions at meetings with your leaders. Our positions are not identical, but neither are we opposed. So we need to understand each other’s position, accept differences, and work towards enlarging shared interests with one another.
Once again, I request that Global Times publish my letter of Sep 26, 2016, including its Annex, in full, in the print version where your report was first published. This is so that your readers can be fully and accurately informed in the interest of honesty, professionalism, objectivity and transparency.
The letter from the Laos delegation is as follows:
I would like to extend my friendly greeting to Your Excellency, and on behalf of 10 ASEAN member States attending the XVII NAM Ministerial Meeting, namely Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippine, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam, have the honour to reiterate that the question of South China Sea is a matter of vital interest for peace stability, security and cooperation in South East Asia. From the very beginning, ASEAN with a high respect to Venezuela Chair of XVII NAM Summit and with the strong aspiration to contribute to the success of this XVII NAM Summit, has been requesting extensive discussion and consultation with interested NAM members to reach an agreement on the issue.
Unfortunately our cooperative spirit and our constructive efforts have not been reciprocated. ASEAN, with a very deep regret and with the high respect to the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as the Chair of the XVII NAM Summit and to all distinguished NAM members, has to reiterate that ASEAN is not in a position to accept the paragraph relating to the South China Sea numbered 449 as reflected in the draft NAM Final Outcome Document received by member countries in the morning of 18 September 2016, as it does not reflect the current developments in the region. We would like to request the NAM Chair to put on record our reservation and incorporate in the NAM Final Outcome Document our reservation in the form of an Annex as follows:
'The Heads of State or Government reiterated the call to solve all sovereignty and territorial disputes in the South China Sea by peaceful means, without resorting to force and/or the threat to use force, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Charter of the United Nations. In this context, they urged all parties to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in its entirety to build, maintain and enhance mutual trust and confidence, to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and to work expeditiously for the early adoption of an effective Code of Conduct, which would help to promote international peace and stability in the region, with a view to creating a positive climate for the eventual resolution of all contentious issues, as mentioned in paragraph 2 of the Joint Commmunique of the 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane, Laos dated 24 July 2016. They expressed their hope that all parties concerned would refrain from any actions that may undermine peace, stability, trust and confidence in the region. The Heads of State or Government shared serious concerns over recent and ongoing developments in the South China Sea and took note of the concerns expressed by some ministers/leaders on the land reclamations and escalation of activities in the area, including the increased presence of military assets and the possibility of further militarization of outposts in the South China Sea, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region. They emphasized the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities, including land reclamation that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea. They reaffirmed the importance of and their shared commitment to maintaining peace, security, stability, the freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea, as provided for by the universally recognized principles of international law. To this end, they welcomed the adoption of the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in July 2011 in Bali and the Joint Statement of the 15th ASEAN-China Summit on 10th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in November 2012 in Phnom Penh. The Heads of State or Government also welcomed the Joint Statement by the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN Member States and China on the Full and Effective Implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea on 25 July 2016 in Vientiane. They further welcomed the positive contribution of the consultations at ASEAN-China dialogues, and the regular exchange of views at relevant ASEAN-led fora, and encouraged their continuance. The Heads of State or Government welcomed the progress made on some of the Early Harvest Measures, which includes adopting a 24-hour MFA-to-MFA hotline for maritime emergencies. They noted the ASEAN-China 25th Anniversary Commemorative Summit on 7 September 2016 in Vientiane, the 17th Joint Working Group on the implementation of the DOC on 8 June 2016 and the 12th Senior Official’s Meeting on the implementation of the DOC on 9 June 2016 in Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam.'
Therefore, ASEAN expresses its reservation on paragraph 449 of the XVII NAM Final Outcome Document, and with your permission, kindly requests that its reservation and this letter be put on record and included as annex of the Final Outcome Document.
Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
SOM and Ministerial Leader of the Lao delegation"