SINGAPORE – Singapore is not involved in maritime disputes with China but when asked what keeps him up at night, Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong cited the territorial rows between China and other countries in the region.
“I’m concerned about peace in the region,” Singapore’s Prime Minister admitted at the opening forum of the Forbes Global CEO Conference here on Tuesday, October 28.
He mentioned North Korea’s unpredictability and concerns over the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or similar-minded groups making their way to Southeast Asia, but also emphasized China’s claim over areas of the South China Sea.
Speaking about the disputes, Lee said he feels the maritime rows over the South China Sea and the Senkaku Islands have intensified.
“I think the temperature has gone up [for] both. They’re not easy to resolve but again I don’t think that either side wants to push it to the brink,” he said referring to China and claimant countries. “We have to hope that no missteps will come through.”
Lee also said he does not see a resolution anytime soon. “I don’t see those issues being resolved quickly because sovereignty is involved, national pride is involved, because there’s a social media in these countries that work up sentiments, and nobody can pull back and say I made a mistake… it’s not going to happen,” he said.
“So at the end of the day all we can do is live with the disagreements and manage them. And hope that our grandchildren will be wiser than us and can be progressive.”
Beijing claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety, even areas far from its shoreline.
The Philippines has a maritime dispute with China, as well as other ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, and Taiwan.
On March 29, 2014, the Philippines submitted a nearly 4,000-page document, called a memorial, in a bid to end what it considered decades of bullying by China. China however has refused to acknowledge the designated arbitral tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear the case.
China is also at loggerheads with Japan over the disputed Senkaku islands, which China claims and calls the Diaoyus.
Chinese state-owned ships and aircraft have regularly approached the Senkakus and other disputed areas to demonstrate Beijing’s territorial claims, raising concerns among the regional and international community. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com
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