Singapore and China are hoping to put recent disagreements behind them over Taiwan and South China Sea as the Lion City’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrived in Beijing.
Singapore has no territorial claims in the South China Sea but, as Asean’s biggest port, it has said free navigation is vital to regional stability.
China is also suspicious of the predominantly ethnically Chinese city-state’s military cooperation with the US and Taiwan.
Singapore has a population of 5.6 million, with 74.3 per cent ethnically Chinese, 13.4 per cent largely Muslim Malays, 9.1 per cent of Indian descent and 3.2 per cent others.
“I trust this will inject new energy into not just China-Singapore relations but also China-Asean relations,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said.
Singapore will hold the rotating chair of Asean next year, which reportedly has led to fears in Beijing of increased pressure on the South China Sea issue.
Lee said he hoped to bring China and Asean closer together. Washington and Singapore announced a deepened defence deal in late 2015, agreeing the deployment of long-range P-8 surveillance planes out of Singapore, which frequently track China’s submarines.
The tiny republic also has close but unofficial ties with Taiwan, which Beijing tries to isolate internationally.
Tensions increased last November when nine Singaporean armoured-personnel carriers were seized at Hong Kong’s port while being shipped home from a training exercise in Taiwan. Hong Kong released the vehicles earlier this year amid unusually public debates in both Singapore and China about the increasingly tense relationship.
Back home, Singapore was thinking of international threats yesterday as it was told it must boost cybersecurity as it was more exposed than its Asean neighbours, warned the national security chief Teo Chee Hean.
Teo said the Cyber Security Agency would develop an academy working with the private sector to train staff in government and “critical information infrastructure” (CII) sectors. It is due to open during this financial year.
US-based cybersecurity firm FireEye would provide training in incident response and malware analysis, the deputy prime minister told the Singapore International Cyber Week.
Singapore was also launching its Cybersecurity Awards to recognise “significant contributions” to the technological scene to be presented in February, Teo said.
He said the authorities would also strengthen its national cybersecurity capabilities, including reforming the Cybersecurity Bill.
This would include guidelines for industrial control systems used in the energy, water, maritime and land transport sectors, Teo told the event.
“With these guidelines, we expect companies and agencies to adopt stronger cybersecurity measures,” the minister said.
Singapore’s close military ties with the US irritates Beijing. Picture credit: Flickr