SINGAPORE: Foreign Minister K Shanmugam has stressed the importance of strengthening regional relationships to protect Singapore’s interests in an unpredictable environment.
He said in Parliament on Friday during the debate on his ministry’s spending plans that ASEAN is strategically vital to Singapore as a buffer and an influence multiplier.
However, he said, 2012 was not a year ASEAN could be proud of.
ASEAN’s unity and credibility were painfully tested by the South China Sea territorial dispute during Cambodia’s chairmanship, while the ongoing developments in the South China Sea will continue to present challenges.
Mr Shanmugam also reiterated that the Philippine decision to start arbitration proceedings against China was a national decision.
He said ASEAN was not consulted. China has decided not to participate in the tribunal.
The Minister said this is not the end of the story as the tribunal may proceed even without China’s participation.
Mr Shanmugam hopes all parties will remain calm.
He also said it is important for ASEAN to regain unity and credibility by realising community—building targets by 31 December 2015, as well as retain its central role in the regional architecture.
Mr Shanmugam said Brunei’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year will be crucial.
He described Brunei as an experienced and committed member and added that Singapore is confident it will promote consensus through consultations with all ASEAN members and dialogue partners.
He said Singapore strongly supports Brunei and will work closely with others to ensure its chairmanship will be a success.
Mr Shanmugam said while global economic uncertainties remain, Singapore has worked hard to ensure that it is well—positioned to meet these challenges by working to strengthen ASEAN and building ties with its neighbours and major powers.
He said Singapore cannot be complacent and must continue to stay alert and nimble to respond to challenges and opportunities.
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