In a recent episode that has brought to light the fragile nature of China’s diplomatic tolerance, the Republic of Singapore found itself in the midst of Beijing’s disapproval.
This tension arose following Singapore’s congratulatory message to Taiwan’s Vice President Lai Ching-te and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after their victory in the elections.
Beijing’s initial response to the DPP’s presidential election win last Saturday was to assert that Taiwan’s ruling party does not represent the entire island.
This stance was further emphasized when Mao Ning, the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, responded to Singapore’s message to Vice President Lai at its routine press conference on Monday (15 Jan).
Mao stated, “China has immediately issued solemn démarches to Singapore,” a move tantamount to a diplomatic reprimand.
China has responded similarly to other countries, including the US, Japan, and several European nations, which intend to send delegations to the Taiwan region to “express congratulations” following the elections.
Mao underscored, “Singaporean leaders have consistently stated that the Taiwan issue is ‘a deep red line’ for China.”
She reiterated, “China values this position and anticipates Singapore’s strict adherence to the one-China principle, as well as tangible actions to strengthen overall friendly relations between China and Singapore.”
Inquiries directed at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding this situation reportedly went unanswered.
Singapore has actively advocated for increased dialogue on cross-strait relations despite Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong downplaying the chances of an imminent conflict over Taiwan.
In its recent message to Vice President Lai, Singapore’s Foreign Ministry emphasized the country’s “close and longstanding friendship with Taiwan and the Taiwanese people,” reaffirming its commitment to nurturing these ties within the confines of its “One China” policy. The ministry stated, “Singapore has consistently supported the peaceful development of cross-strait relations.”
Historically, since its independence and the concurrent establishment of Kuomintang rule in Taiwan, Singapore has maintained close relations with Taiwan, particularly in economic matters.
An example of close ties is the utilization of military training bases on the island by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) since 1975. These bases have supported combined arms exercises involving infantry, artillery, and armoured units.
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