SINGAPORE: China's Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (Sep 14), the second and final day of his working visit to Singapore.
During their meeting at the Istana, both affirmed the "excellent" state of relations between Singapore and China, and the "positive momentum" in cooperation amid COVID-19, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a press statement.
Mr Lee and Mr Wang also discussed regional and international developments and welcomed the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations this year, said MFA.
In a Facebook post, Mr Lee said that he and Mr Wang "reaffirmed the longstanding ties" between Singapore and China, and had a "productive and candid" discussion on international and regional developments.
"Despite challenging global circumstances in this pandemic, we have continued working closely, sharing resources and expertise to better manage the outbreak," said Mr Lee.
"Singapore welcomes China’s continued contribution in our part of the world, and will continue working with China to build a more harmonious and peaceful world," he added.
On Monday, Mr Wang called on Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and met his counterpart, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.
Singapore is the third stop in Mr Wang's tour of Southeast Asia, which also included Vietnam and Cambodia. He will visit South Korea after departing Singapore.
SINGAPORE HOPES FOR "CONSTRUCTIVE RELATIONSHIP" BETWEEN CHINA, US
In a joint press conference with Mr Wang on Tuesday, Dr Balakrishnan said that Singapore hopes that China and the United States will be able to have a “constructive relationship” despite "inevitable" competition.
Singapore also hopes that both superpowers will be able to cooperate in areas that are “absolutely essential”, such as fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, and minimise confrontation when points of friction emerge, he added.
“I remain optimistic that greater engagement between both China and the US will be positive, and that their relations with Southeast Asia will be conducted on the basis of mutual respect, on the equality of countries and on looking for win-win outcomes,” the Singapore minister said.
Dr Balakrishnan was responding to questions from a Lianhe Zaobao reporter, who had asked if the visits by Mr Wang and US Vice President Kamala Harris, who came to Singapore last month, could be seen as “part of a diplomatic competition” between the two superpowers. The reporter also asked for the minister’s assessment on the possibility of ASEAN not choosing sides.
In his reply, Dr Balakrishnan said the US has been “a benign and constructive, and positive presence” in the region for many decades. But the rise of China, which has been “the biggest success story of the last 40 years”, has changed circumstances.
“Right now at this point in history, the biggest question is how will China’s rise … affect the relationship with the current superpower – the United States – and whether the formula that has existed for many decades of economic integration, of free trade, of free flow of investments in technology … will continue to apply,” he said.
“What Singapore hopes for is that the relationship between the US and China will be one where despite the fact that competition is inevitable, that you will still be able to find a constructive relationship.
“That you will be able to cooperate where it is absolutely essential … And that from time to time when there are points of friction, we hope that confrontation can be minimised,” Dr Balakrishnan added.
Mr Wang, who spoke in Mandarin after Dr Balakrishnan, said the viewing of China’s progress is an important topic for all countries. He noted that Singapore has taken on a rational and objective approach in looking at China’s development, while looking for opportunities to cooperate.
But there are still some countries and forces in the world that may not be used to China’s progress and with that, worries and misjudgment have arose. The US “may be in the midst of this process”, said the Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister.
China hopes that the US can look at China’s progress in a rational and objective manner, he added, urging the US to discard the zero-sum game mentality. Mr Wang also said that a cooperation between the world’s top two biggest economies will be beneficial to the world.
WIDE RANGE OF ISSUES DISCUSSED DURING VISIT
In his opening remarks for the press conference on Tuesday, Dr Balakrishnan said he had discussed a wide range of issues with Mr Wang during their meeting, including the need to increase high-level bilateral exchanges between Singapore and China.
They also took stock of the “good progress” in the three Government-to-Government projects between Singapore and China, as well as explored new areas of cooperation.
Dr Balakrishnan said China has expressed its interest in the digital economy partnership agreement that Singapore signed with New Zealand and Chile in June last year.
Describing the agreement as a “first of its kind” that establishes new approaches and collaboration in digital trade issues, the minister added: “Singapore welcomes China’s interest in cooperating on the digital economy, and this is a vital and fast-growing component of our relationship.”
Both sides also discussed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and hope that the trade pact will come into force as soon as possible.
Mr Wang and Mr Heng had discussed cooperation in the green economy and sustainable development, said Dr Balakrishnan.
“I believe we can work very closely together to harvest new growth opportunities in this vital field,” he added, while noting that both countries look forward to the convening of the 17th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) this year.
“The JCBC will allow us to take stock of and to deepen our ongoing cooperation, as well as to discuss how both sides can pursue new initiatives that are mutually beneficial,” said Dr Balakrishnan.
With this year being the 30th anniversary of China-ASEAN dialogue relations, Dr Balakrishnan said Mr Wang’s visit is “most timely” and noted “a very good discussion” on how ASEAN and China can commemorate this important milestone.
“I think you all know that ASEAN and China have had substantive relations with cooperation across many sectors, including public health, connectivity, smart cities, and more,” Dr Balakrishnan said.
“ASEAN welcomes mutually beneficial engagement with all our dialogue partners, including China, within the inclusive framework of the ASEAN led-mechanisms. And ASEAN welcomes engagement based on the principles of ASEAN centrality and unity, and espouses an open, inclusive, and rules-based regional architecture, anchored in international law.”