Singapore’s ambassador-at-large, Bilahari Kausikan, commented on the seizure of nine armoured vehicles by the Hong Kong customs department and the Chinese government’s protest lodged with its Singapore counterpart today (28 Nov), and suggested that China openly expressing displeasure is meant to intimidate Singaporeans.

The former senior civil servant from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that China has realised that with or without Lee Kuan Yew, the government cannot be intimidated, and so they are trying to intimidate Singaporeans in order to get Singaporeans to pressure the government.

Replying in his Facebook to several commenters who responded to his posting of the Reuter’s article on the topic, Mr Kausikan disagreed that China is unhappy with Singapore for speaking up on the the South China Sea issue, and would have left Singapore alone if we had kept quiet.

“If we had stayed quiet on an issue of such importance they would have asked for more: that we speak out in support of their position and play the role Cambodia plays for them in ASEAN (even Laos is not as bad). They know we are far more credible than Cambodia internationally and thus want us to be their mouthpiece. Of course, we do on occasion support them when it is in our interests, for example on Hong Kong and the Western Regions project at Chongqing that we undertook at Xi Jinping’s request. But we cannot be just their mouthpiece which is fundamentally what they want and what they mean when they refer to us, despite our constant denials, as a ‘Chinese country’. If we do that our credibility with the US, Japan, India, Australia among others would be entirely destroyed and we have important interests with these countries too.”

He suggested that in considering Singapore’s immediate neighbours, we should not let ourselves be intimidated by Beijing.

The ambassador said that he is not afraid to speak his mind as he is viewed as someone who is very hard to deal with by the Chinese Government.

Mr Kausikan a policy adviser to Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had in April of this year, suggested that China was splitting ASEAN by reaching a consensus with three ASEAN states on the South China Sea ahead of an international ruling on a petition against China’s claims in the South China Sea brought by the Philippines.

China’s Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin had rebuked Mr Kausikan’s (and Ambassador-at- Large Ong Keng Yong) suggestions and said that China will “never want to split up” the regional grouping. Adding: “China has always supported the development of Asean and recognised that Asean’s growth is also important to East Asia.”

Describing the ambassadors descriptions as ‘misconceptions’, Mr Liu said that they were “not beneficial to the Sino-Asean relationship and cooperation.”