Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says Australia and Singapore have a joint economic interest in ensuring regional tensions between the United States and China do not spiral out of control.
In an address to a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament, the first by a Singapore prime minister, Mr Lee said both nations were open economies that relied heavily on international trade and global markets.
“We both need a stable and orderly world in which countries big and small can prosper in peace,” he said.
“This requires an open and inclusive social regional order where all the major powers can participate.
“We both see the United States as a benign force, playing a major role in fostering peace and stability in Asia. At the same time, we both have substantial ties with other major powers.”
China is the largest trading partner for Singapore and Australia. Mr Lee indicated embracing China economically was important to stability.
“We wish to strengthen our cooperation with China and welcome China in engaging constructively with the region,” he said.
He singled out the decision of both countries to join China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
He said Australia further deepening ties with south-east Asia was also important.
“Singapore believes that strengthening Australia’s ties with Asia will keep the region open,” he said.
Shoulder to shoulder
Mr Lee is in Australia for a two-day visit to mark a significant upgrade of defence and trade ties between the two countries. Singapore is Australia’s fifth largest trading partner and a key military ally.
In welcoming Mr Lee, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reaffirmed that the two nations stood shoulder to shoulder against any belligerence by others in the region.
“Singapore and Australia are at one in defending the rule of law and rejecting the proposition that might is right,” Mr Turnbull said.
“Australia and Singapore are firm proponents of institutions that support regional stability and prosperity such as ASEAN and the East Asian summit.”
Mr Turnbull said the agreement he and Mr Lee would sign to expand the number of Singaporean troops be based in Queensland from 6000 to 14,000 was crucial to this.
Singapore will invest $2.25 billion to upgrade training facilities in Townsville and Shoalwater Bay.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten fuelled further Liberal attacks over the party’s policy on the South China Sea after he said he was not going to start telling the military how to sail its ships.
The comments come after his defence and foreign affairs spokespeople confirmed Labor would continue its previous policy under former senator Stephen Conroy, under which the party believes the navy should be authorised to conduct freedom of navigation exercises within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-controlled islands in order to support the international system.
Mr Shorten said there had been no change to Labor’s policy shortly after Senator Conroy resigned, but on Wednesday he refused to repeat that Labor believed the navy should be authorised to conduct exercises within the 12 mile radius.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop accused him of inconsistency and refusing to confirm what Labor’s policy was.
Read more: http://www.afr.com/news/politics/singapore-australia-reject-might-is-right-malcolm-turnbull-20161011-gs06k5#ixzz4MsPBNs37
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