SINGAPORE: Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, assured on Monday (5 February) that the nation’s “strong and deep” ties with China remain unaffected, following a diplomatic reprimand from China regarding Singapore’s congratulatory message to Taiwan’s President William Lai Ching-te.
In a written answer to a parliamentary question filed by Dennis Tan, Workers’ Party Member of Parliament for Hougang SMC, Dr Balakrishnan said: “Singapore was approached by the Chinese, and we reiterated our longstanding approach and ‘One China’ policy.
“Our strong and deep relations with China have not been affected, and our engagements with China have proceeded apace.”
Mr Tan asked the minister whether the demarches made by China to Singapore in response to Singapore’s congratulatory message to Taiwan’s new President would affect Singapore’s relationship with China and Singapore’s “One China” policy.
On 14 January, Singapore congratulated Dr Lai after he secured the presidency for the Democratic Progressive Party in Taiwan’s elections.
A spokesperson for Singapore’s MFA expressed the country’s warm wishes for the successful conclusion of the elections and congratulated Dr William Lai and his party on their victory.
In response to media queries, the MFA spokesperson stated, “We welcome the successful conclusion of the elections and congratulate Dr William Lai and his party on their victory.”
The spokesperson emphasized the close and longstanding friendship between Singapore and Taiwan, adding, “Singapore shares a close and longstanding friendship with Taiwan and the Taiwanese people, and will continue to grow this relationship based on our ‘One China’ policy.”
The spokesperson highlighted Singapore’s consistent support for the peaceful development of cross-strait relations, emphasizing the importance of dialogue, building trust, and pursuing cooperation.
China reproaches Singapore over congratulatory message to DPP’s victory
Singapore’s congratulatory message triggered a swift response from China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning, who declared, “China promptly issued solemn démarches to Singapore,” signalling 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.”
DPP’s presidential win and cross-strait relations
In the presidential election held on 13 January, Dr Lai secured a victory with 40.05 per cent of the vote, surpassing the Kuomintang’s (KMT) Mr Hou Yu-ih and the Taiwan People’s Party’s (TPP) Dr Ko Wen-je.
Dr. Lai broke the infamous “eight-year curse” of any political party holding the presidential seat for more than two terms since direct presidential elections began in 1996.
Despite Dr Lai’s victory, the DPP lost its legislative majority, securing 51 seats out of the 113 available. The KMT took the most seats with 52, while the TPP won eight seats. Two seats were taken by independent candidates.
Dr Lai, the former mayor of Tainan and a noted proponent of Taiwan’s independence addressed concerns raised by rivals and critics in his victory speech.
He extended an olive branch to the opposition and China, stating, “Under the principles of dignity and parity, we will use exchanges to replace obstructionism, dialogue to replace confrontation, and confidently pursue exchanges and cooperation with China.”
“This furthers the well-being of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and achieves our objective of peace and common prosperity.”
In response to Dr Lai’s win, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office stated that his victory would not change the basic landscape of cross-strait relations.
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.
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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