A Jan. 2017 Visit With Prime Minister Lee: Hiccups In Foreign Policy

Re Terrex sequestration and Channel 5’s reporting of Donald Trump…

Dear PM Lee, greetings to you and readers. Here’s my two cents’ worth on two recent undiplomatic incidents and let me cut to the chase.

1. Earlier in the week, Ministers Ng Eng Hen and Balakrishnan expatiated on the confiscation of the 9 Terrexes by Hong Kong authority, but we are left with more questions than answers.

Minister Ng remarked that the HK authority will take some time to complete its investigation and will handle the matter in accordance with its laws. In plain-spoken translation: the impoundment will remain so indefinitely at the pleasure of her boss in Beijing. Minister Balakrishnan did signal his government’s desire to be herself in determining her best geopolitical interests. But is Singapore’s long-term geopolitical interest best served by its current foreign policy vis-a-vis its big neighbor in the region, a concerned citizen asks?

The once-cherished doctrine of America be counted on as a reliable benign stabilizer in the Pacific Rim is in question and necessitates further scrutiny. With the advent of the Trump Administration whose only predictable feature is its unpredictability — a phenomenon that could well last beyond 2020 — a thorough re-examination of old, staid doctrine in geopolitics of the region is in order.

China’s regional rise and its diplomatic strategy to conquer and divide its neighbors is already having its effect. It ill behooves Little Red Dot to go out of her way to take sides in her neighbors’ disputes, to antagonize the big power in the vicinity. Deviating from the constructive role that she once assumed so well as an honest, neutral intermediary in her regional sphere, would only needlessly incur future Terrex-like contretemps. The adage that nations have no permanent friends or allies, only permanent interests is a good precept in charting her diplomatic course forward.

2. During last evening’s Channel 5 news (Jan. 11), news presenter Cheryl Fox did a segment on Donald Trump’s behind-the-scenes intelligence briefing. She alluded to internal memos allegedly detailing Russia’s knowledge of Trump’s sexcapade with Russian ‘prostitutes’ in 2013. That was an unfortunate, indiscreet reportage by Channel 5 in so many words. Just hours later, during Trump’s press conference, the president-elect went ballistic on CNN over its uncorroborated reportage of the same — despite the fact that CNN’s reporting of it was, in my estimation, professional and discreet, taking care to omit mentioning any such explicit, salacious detail, including avoidance in the use of the term ‘prostitute’. Willy-nilly, the local news media here are viewed by critics as quasi-official organs. Such titillating, precipitate reporting by Channel 5 predicated on unsubstantiated buzz will not be conducive to future diplomacy with a thin-skinned Trump Administration.

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