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Singapore-Taiwan ties likely to remain strong in post-Lee era

Singapore-Taiwan ties likely to remain strong in post-Lee era

By Elaine Hou, CNA staff reporter The passing of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew (???) will not result in any major changes to that country's military or economic links with Taiwan, according to two analysts. Singapore will continue to send its ground forces to be trained in Taiwan, under a military program dubbed "Starlight" (??), because there is no suitable space in the city state for such training, said Liu Hsiao-pong (???), an associate professor at Tamkang University in New Taipei. It is unlikely that Singapore would send its troops to China instead, since it would not want to risk upsetting the United States, which supplies many of its weapons systems, he said. "Singapore needs Taiwan to carry out that training program," said Liu, who taught at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University for six years before returning to Taiwan in 2012. He said the military program is an important part of the substantive relations between Taiwan and Singapore and helps create links between senior government officials in the two countries. Ross Feingold, a senior adviser at DC International Advisory, agreed with Liu's assessment, saying there are good logistical reasons for Singapore to continue its military training program in Taiwan. Apart from the issue of adequate space, there is the matter of topography, said Feingold, whose company advises on political risk in markets around the world. He said the training sites in Taiwan have topographies similar to those of countries bordering Singapore, which means the training is good preparation in the event of a war between Singapore and its neighbors. "Those are compelling reasons," Feingold said in an interview with CNA in Taipei. On the possibility of Singapore accepting China's offer to conduct military training there, he said Singapore may not want to reveal its military capabilities to China. The late Lee Kuan Yew was behind Singapore's long-running military training program in Taiwan, which plays an important role in the relations between the two countries, Feingold said. The program's importance goes beyond military exchanges because it involves people-to-people contacts, which is important for Taiwan in its relations with Singapore, he added. Many young Singaporean soldiers have taken part in the program, which has helped them develop a positive view of Taiwan, Feingold said. Another indicator of the importance of the ties between the two countries is the trade agreement they signed in 2013, he said. The deal, called the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership (ASTEP), took effect in April last year. Feingold said that although it was not immediately clear how high Taiwan would be on Singapore's agenda in the future, he was of the view that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (???) would at least seek to maintain the current level of relations. "I can't imagine any kind of downgrade," he said. There have been "very encouraging" signs, he said, pointing to President Ma Ying-jeou's (???) visit to Singapore to pay his last respects to Lee Kuan Yew at a private family wake March 24, and the fact that Singapore invited four Taiwanese political figures to attend the state funeral on March 29. On trilateral ties between Taiwan, China and Singapore, Feingold said indicators of those ties' future dynamics will include the topics on the agenda of the next meeting between Lee Hsien Loong and Chinese President Xi Jinping and Singapore's choice of which major political figure from the city state will next visit Taiwan. Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister, is remembered in Taiwan as a leader who laid the foundation for relations between Taiwan and Singapore and who also worked tirelessly to help improve relations between Taiwan and China. He visited Taiwan 25 times during his lifetime and developed close relationships with many Taiwanese political leaders, especially late President Chiang Ching-kuo (???). The most notable example of his efforts was a historic meeting between Koo Chen-fu (???), chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) of Taiwan, and Wang Daohan (???), president of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), which took place in Singapore in 1993. It marked a breakthrough in cross-strait relations by institutionalizing officially sanctioned talks between the top cross-strait negotiators from the two sides. Lee Kuan Yew died early March 23 at the age of 91.


Updated : 2021-09-25 19:55 GMT+08:00