Source: Today Online
Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen has brushed aside concerns about China’s level of representation at a premier security forum held in Singapore over the weekend, adding that it was China’s contribution to the discussions that matter.
Speaking to reporters after the conclusion of the IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies) Shangri-La Dialogue yesterday, the minister said he was “very happy” with how China contributed to the discussions.
He noted that the leader of the Chinese delegation, vice-president of the Academy of Military Science Lieutenant-General He Lei, “did a splendid job, and he was very open in sharing”.
“I look less at the level of representation than what the messages are,” said Dr Ng. “I must say that from time to time, sometimes Singapore doesn’t send its Minister for whatever reasons, and we expect that whoever we send will send the appropriate messages.”
Observers have noted the discrepancy between China’s level of participation and that of the other delegations.
Many delegations were led by their defence chiefs. From 2013 to 2016, the Chinese delegation was headed by an officer at the deputy-chief level in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hierarchy.
The Chinese foreign ministry said the level of representation this year was decided “in accordance with work requirements”. When kicking off the dialogue on Friday night, IISS’ director-general and chief executive John Chipman said the PLA has explained that China’s leading Central Military Commission members were preoccupied with military reforms this year. He said the PLA “fully intend(s) in 2018 to send to the Shangri-La Dialogue a delegation led by a four-star officer”.
During the event, Lt-Gen He said that all countries should settle disputes in a peaceful manner instead of resorting to force, adding that China adopts a foreign policy based on peace and takes the lead in security-building efforts in the region.
Dr Ng met Lt-Gen He on Friday, during which both reaffirmed the “warm and friendly” bilateral defence relationship.
The minister added yesterday: “我们请客 (We invite guests), we are happy with who comes.”
He said Beijing has already stated its position on the issue, and that Singapore has no reason to doubt the account.
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