CHINA TOPIX

Updated 6:02 PM EDT, Wed, Apr 01, 2020

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China Tells Singapore to Stay Away From South China Sea Dispute

China and Singapore.

(Photo : Getty Images.) China's Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said at a recently concluded ASEAN meeting that Singapore must stay away from the South China Sea dispute.

A senior Chinese diplomat called on Singapore not to intervene in the South China Sea dispute at a recently concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting, the South China Sea Morning Post reported.

The stern message was conveyed by Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin at an ASEAN meeting in Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia, where ASEAN countries agreed to issue a joint statement on the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).

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"As Singapore is not a claimant in the South China Sea, we hope that the Singapore government, on the condition of not interfering in South China Sea issues, will actively promote cooperation between China and ASEAN," Liu said.

China and Singapore have enjoyed decades of cordial ties, which has been greatly boosted by increasing trade and investment. However, the diplomatic relation between both nations has taken a nosedive in recent years apparently due to Singapore's increasing closeness to the United States.                    

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's critical statements on the South China Sea verdict during his recent US visit did not go to well with Beijing. Loong said that international tribunal court's verdict was much better than seeing "whose guns are more powerful."       

The Singapore Prime Minister also welcomed America's proactive role in the disputed maritime region, referring to the United States' "freedom of navigation" operation in the South China Sea waters.

Analysts say that Singapore may not be a claimant in the dispute, but has a strategic interest in ensuring maritime trade and unrestricted navigation in South China Sea waters. However, many agree Singapore needs to be careful in striking a balance in South China Sea Policy and economic ties with China.

China is one of the biggest trading partners of Singapore, with bilateral trade crossing $115.2 billion in 2013, according to International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.

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