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Sunday, August 22, 2004

BBC > Singapore 'would not back Taiwan'

By Andrew Wood
BBC correspondent in Singapore

Singapore's new prime minister says he would not support Taiwan if it provoked a war with China over independence.
Lee Hsien Loong visited Taiwan before he was sworn in earlier this month, causing official outrage in Beijing and a chill in Singapore-China relations.

In a national address, Mr Lee explained that he needed to understand the views of Taiwanese politicians first-hand.

After visiting Taiwan, his assessment was that there was a real risk of miscalculation and mishap, he added.

Singapore has enjoyed good relations with both China and Taiwan.

China is an important partner in both trade and investment.

Taiwan is too - and it is also an important training ground for the Singapore army.


Mr Lee's comments on Taiwan were part of his three-hour National Day Rally speech, given in Malay, Mandarin Chinese and English.

Mr Lee said that if war broke out, Singapore would be faced with a difficult choice between good friends.

As prime minister, he needed to understand the thinking of Taiwanese politicians first-hand, he said.

He felt meeting in person was better than sitting in his office reading secret reports and watching the TV news, he explained.

After visiting Taiwan, his assessment was there was a real risk of miscalculation and mishap. He was alarmed by the rise of independence forces.

He said Singapore would not recognise an independent Taiwan, and he felt European and Asian countries would not either.

But he said most Taiwanese politicians did not recognise that reality.

Mr Lee said he regretted his visit to Taiwan had caused such a severe reaction in China.

But he said it had not breached Singapore's One China policy, which had been followed since 1965.

In the speech, he also announced measures to encourage Singaporeans to have more babies and to promote family life. They included longer maternity leave for women and a five-day working week for civil servants.

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