Sunday, 24 September 2023

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Has Tan Wu Meng confused fear and compulsion with diligence and discipline?

Singapore’s active courting of the North Korean state is somewhat disturbing. It is one thing to host an international summit between the President of the United States and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to facilitate talks between the 2 but quite another for us to plan governmental visits to North Korea. Does the fact that Kim has met President Trump somehow legitimise him in the eyes of the Singapore government?

The fact remains that Kim is a despot and a tyrant. The one off meeting between the US and Kim in Singapore does not change that fact. Why then is Singapore so actively courting North Korea? Is this in our country’s best interest? Does courting North Korea gel with the international first world country reputation that we hope to create and publicise? We are currently making preparations to host the F1 race. The world’s spotlight is on Singapore. It does not, therefore, seem congruent to be publicly praising North Korea at the same time.

On a three-day official visit to the country during its 70th anniversary, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tan Wu Meng praised the North Koreans for their “diligence and discipline”.

Given that North Koreans do not have the reputation of being free enough to have any form of individuality, I find it strange that Tan would seek to praise them for qualities that can signify total state control to the detriment of its citizens. If the threat of non conformation is death or torture to self or family members, is it surprising that citizens will be forced to be diligent and disciplined? Arguably, has Tan confused fear and compulsion with diligence and discipline?

In making these remarks, is Tan naive, ill informed or does he simply not care about how his utterances could affect Singapore’s international standing?

I understand that it may be the Singapore government’s view that it would be prudent for Singapore’s interests to work closely with its neighbours. This necessitates bi lateral visits. However, the cultivation of official relationships is not the same as fawning. By publicly praising North Korea for its “parades” which are seen by many countries the world over as a symbol of oppression, is Singapore coming across as condoning the subjugation of the people of North Korean?

There is a difference between being diplomatically polite and being sycophantic. Tan could have said that North Korean was well run and safe. etc. There was no need to go as far as he did.

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