In an article published by Foreign Affairs last Thursday (4 Jun), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that China can’t take over US security presence in Southeast Asia.
He said that the US security presence “remains vital to the Asia-Pacific region” and China would be unable to take over that role in Southeast Asia even with its increasing military might.
“Despite its increasing military strength, China would be unable to take over the United States’ security role,” he wrote, adding that a US withdrawal in North Asia would compel Japan and South Korea to contemplate developing nuclear weapons to counter North Korea’s growing threat.
PM Lee also wrote that China’s competing maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea meant that countries in the region will “always see China’s naval presence as an attempt to advance those claims”.
He added that many Southeast Asian nations are “extremely sensitive” about perceptions that China has influence on their sizeable ethnic Chinese minorities.
It’s not known why he decides to speak on behalf of Southeast Asian countries. The Chair of ASEAN for 2020 is Vietnam. Singapore was the ASEAN Chair in 2018. Furthermore, Singapore does not have any maritime and territorial claims in the South China Sea.
PM Lee’s article came as tensions between the US and China continue to escalate in recent months. With regard to the clash between US and China, PM Lee commented that Asia Pacific countries do not wish to be forced to choose between both countries.
“The strategic choices that the United States and China make will shape the contours of the emerging global order,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, regardless of whichever country is taking charge of security role in Southeast Asia or none at all, it has been reported that as many as 100,000 people could be retrenched in Singapore this year. Singapore is likely to head for its worst recession since independence in 1965. The economy is expected to shrink by 4 to 7 per cent this year.