“To deal with China?" Singapore's Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has responded to a recent news report by Cable News Network (CNN),an American mainstream news out, and rebutted a CNN report published on Thursday last week as sowing discord between Singapore and China.
According to a report released by Nanyang Sin-Chew Lianhe Zaobao (commonly abbreviated as Lianhe Zaobao), a Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper, on March 11, CNN wrote on March 7 that as an ally of the US, Singapore’s decision to acquire the US F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is to deal with China. However, in responding to the claim, Mindef clarified in a statement that the acquisition is not direct against any particular country, and Singapore is not an ally of the US as well.
The latest statement issued on March 10 by Mindef also made it clear that the acquisition of F-35 Lightning II is for Singapore’s own defence deterrence and not directed against, or to align itself with any particular country.
Mindef also expressed that CNN’s assertion that Singapore is an ally of the US was “erroneous”. It said, unlike other Asian countries who have acquired F-35s, Singapore is not a treaty ally of the US.
“While Singapore has allowed United States ships and aircraft usage of some of our military facilities, this is not a reaction to any recent developments. It is a long-standing arrangement dating back to 1990,” added Mindef.
According to Lianhe Zaobao, Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with then US Vice President James Dan Quayle in 1990 offering enhanced use of facilities in Singapore to American military aircraft and naval vessels as a contribution to sustaining US forward military position in Southeast Asia.
According to an article published by The Straits Times, an English-language daily broadsheet newspaper based in Singapore, on March 11, Mindef also stressed that Singapore's defence policies are predicated on “an inclusive security architecture”, which is exemplified by the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting- Plus (ADMM-Plus). This group consists of China, the United States, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and other countries.
Previous reports from CNN stated that Mindef announced a plan to acquire 12 F-35s from the US with an estimated delivery date by 2030. If the US Congress approves the plan, Singapore will become the fourth US ally in Asia to own them.
Since then, CNN news became less factual and more hypothetical which claimed that the reason of the acquisition is to help the US deal with China. The report also quoted a military “expert” from certain US military intelligence department that Singapore’s decision to acquire the F-35 was “indicative of growing concerns within Asia regarding China's regional ‘ambition’”.
CNN repeatedly reported the US government's stereotype about the South China Sea, smeared China's legitimate action of safeguarding its sovereignty of the South China Sea while advocated the US as a protector of “freedom of navigation” and interests of Southeast Asian countries.
It reported that given the current China-Singapore relations, Singapore has kept a low profile in this acquisition, and there was no mention of targeting China. But Singapore’s move to purchase the F-35 Lightning II would cause trepidation from China.
In fact, the Global Times has already quoted Chinese military experts refuting CNN’s report on March 9. The Chinese military experts commented that Singapore has been importing fighters and armaments from the US and the recent acquisition is a continuation of its traditional national defence strategy. It is absurd of CNN to claim that “this is a message to Beijing”!
Chinese experts said that since Singapore’s neighbors like Malaysia and Indonesia have replaced their old fighters, it is matter of time before Singapore plans for an equipment replacement.
The direct refutation from Mindef to CNN is a crystal-clear message. Unfortunately, few US media quoted or reported Singapore's clarification on March 11.