MFA finally made its move and condemned the leak of US documents that puts Singapore in a tight spot. Since The Guardian started the drum roll on Sunday, MFA would have prepared the statement earlier on, expected the leak and expected the worst. So far it is with regards to MM Lee’s views on North Korean and Chinese affairs.
The Guardian, together with New York Times, Le Monde (France), Der Spiegel (Germany) and El Pais (spain) are the Big Five privileged to get the Wikileaks scoop in some deal with Julian Assange, the Australian man helming the Wikileaks. The B5 will unveil more and more classified US State Department documents supposedly stolen by US military intelligence analyst Bradley Manning in time to come. According to The Guardian, the B5would practice ethical leaking and keep out names and other confidential information. The leaks were also consulted i.e. negotiated with the US State Department on what to release or not to release, according to The Guardian. Hence, so far the leaks have mostly focused on Asia and Africa and not the West, with North Korea being ridiculed first. The B5 would eventually focus on their own governments or at least each other’s governments eventually as that is what sells newspapers – controversy about their own governments most of all. The Guardian already said that they cannot publish certain leaks as they might get sued in the UK, but Le Monde might publish the UK leaks that The Guardian cannot for libel reasons and vice versa in a B5 pact.
This is a great move to milk the 250,000 classified documents for all its worth. The paced leaks are mixed up with with simple business sense. The media is a business with responsibility to advertisers, shareholders and the need to wipe out the competition. The other papers not invited to the Wikileaks inner circle e.g. the Washington Post in the US or The Independent in the UK, can only grit their teeth at the lost opportunity to gain the money-making scoops.
MFA expresses deep concerns over damaging action of WikiLeaks
By Imelda Saad | Posted: 30 November 2010 1945 hrs
SINGAPORE: Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has expressed deep concerns over the “damaging action of WikiLeaks”.
It was responding to media queries following reports about WikiLeaks quoting Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.
A ministry spokesperson said it is critical to protect the confidentiality of diplomatic and official correspondence.
He added that is why Singapore has the Officials Secrets Act.
The ministry said the selective release of documents, especially when taken out of context, will only serve “to sow confusion and fail to provide a complete picture of the important issues that were being discussed among leaders, in the strictest of confidentiality”.
WikiLeaks had recently released confidential US diplomatic correspondence.
In some reports, Mr Lee was quoted on security issues in North East Asia, particularly on nuclear proliferation.
He was also quoted on his opinions of particular leaders to US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.
The remarks were apparently made in Singapore in May last year.
November 30, 2010, 6:51 PM HKT
WikiLeaks: Singapore’s Lee Rates China’s Leaders
Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father and minister mentor, and the grand old man of Asian politics, is famously blunt with his views. All the more, it would seem, in supposedly private diplomatic conversations than in public.
In one of the most blistering lines in a trove of diplomatic correspondence that has already produced a wealth of undiplomatic zingers, Mr. Lee was quoted in a June 4, 2009 U.S. cable released by WikiLeaks as telling U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg that the North Koreans are “psychopathic types, with a ‘flabby old chap’ for a leader who prances around stadiums seeking adulation.”
In the same meeting, which took place on May 30, 2009 in Singapore’s Presidential Palace, Mr. Lee also held forth on China and its leaders. It’s fair to say they came off rather better in the minister mentor’s estimation. Some excerpts:
On Xi Jinping:
The Deputy Secretary asked if in the future a leader like Xi Jinping would continue the policies on Taiwan followed by Hu Jintao. MM Lee responded affirmatively. Xi is a princeling who succeeded despite being rusticated. When the party needed his talents, Xi was brought in as Shanghai Party Secretary. Xi is seen as a Jiang Zemin protégé, but in another three and a half years Jiang’s influence will be gone. The focus now is on maintaining the system. There are no more strongmen like Deng Xiaoping. Jiang did not like Hu, but could not stop him, because Hu had the backing of the system and he did not make mistakes.
On Wang Qishan:
MM Lee said Vice Premier Wang Qishan, whom the MM saw in connection with celebrations in May of the 15th anniversary of Singapore-China Suzhou Industrial Park, is an exceptional talent, very assured and efficient. Wang handled SARS superbly when he was in Hainan. He excelled in coordinating the Beijing Olympics. Li Keqiang may not get the Premiership and the Party is looking for a way to keep Wang on past his 65th birthday until he is 70. MM Lee said he had met first Wang back in the 1990s but had forgotten their meeting. This time when they met, Wang told Lee he had reviewed the records of all Lee’s meeting with Chinese leaders going back to the days of Deng Xiaoping to see how Lee’s thinking had developed. Wang told Lee he respects him as a consistent man.
On China’s Rise
MM Lee said China is following an approach consistent with ideas in the Chinese television series “The Rise of Great Powers.” The mistake of Germany and Japan had been their effort to challenge the existing order. The Chinese are not stupid; they have avoided this mistake. China’s economy has surpassed other countries, with the exceptions of Japan and the United States. Even with those two countries, the gap is closing, with China growing at seven-nine percent annually, versus two-three percent in the United States and Japan. Overall GDP, not GDP per capita, is what matters in terms of power. China has four times the population of the United States. China is active in Latin America, Africa, and in the Gulf. Within hours, everything that is discussed in ASEAN meetings is known in Beijing, given China’s close ties with Laos, Cambodia, and Burma, he stated.
MM Lee said China will not reach the American level in terms of military capabilities any time soon, but is rapidly developing asymmetrical means to deter U.S. military power. China understands that its growth depends on imports, including energy, raw materials, and food. This is why China is working with South Africa on the China-Africa Development Fund. China also needs open sea lanes. Beijing is worried about its dependence on the Strait of Malacca and is moving to ease the dependence by means like a pipeline through Burma.
On Young Chinese
MM Lee said the best course for the United States on China is to build ties with China’s young people. China’s best and brightest want to study in the United States, with the UK as the next option, then Japan. While they are there, it is important that they be treated as equals, with the cultural support they may need as foreigners. Why not have International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs for China? Why not have Chinese cadets at West Point alongside Vietnamese cadets and Indian cadets? America’s advantage is that it can make use of the talent of the entire world, as in Silicon Valley. China still tends to try to keep the foreigners in Beijing and Shanghai. MM Lee noted that his own experience as a student in the UK had left him with an enduring fondness for the UK. When he spent two months at Harvard in 1968, an American professor had invited him home for Thanksgiving. This was not the sort of thing that happened in the UK, and Lee had realized he was dealing with a different civilization. In the future, China’s leaders will have PhDs and MBAs from American universities, he predicted.
MM Lee said former President Chen Shui-bian had left Taiwan in a weak economic position, which had enabled President Ma Ying-Jeou to come to power with his pledge to strengthen the economy through means including expanding the three links with China. In Beijing, former President Jiang Zemin was wedded to his eight-point approach, but President Hu Jintao was more flexible. Jiang wanted to show he was a great man by solving the Taiwan issue in his lifetime, but Hu is more patient and does not have any fixed timeline. In Chinese domestic politics, Hu had wanted Vice Premier Li Keqiang from the Communist Youth League to emerge as his successor, not Vice President Xi Jinping, but Hu did his calculations and accepted Xi when it became clear that Xi had the necessary backing from the rest of the leadership. Similarly, on Taiwan, Hu will be pragmatic. It does not matter to Hu if it takes 10 years or 20 or 30. The key is building links with Taiwan. As in the case of Hong Kong, if necessary the tap could be turned off, he said.
In this context, MM Lee said, Hu could live with Ma’s positions on the ‘92 consensus and on not addressing the reunification issue during his term in office. What mattered to Hu was that Taiwan not seek independence. If that happened, China has 1,000 missiles and is building its capacity to hold the U.S. fleet at a distance. The implicit question for Taiwan’s leaders is if that is what they want, MM Lee said.
MM Lee stated that the alternative is Mainland investment in Taiwan stocks and property. The Mainland has already assured Hong Kong that it will help out economically. The Mainland has not said this to Taiwan, but the Mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Director, Wang Yi, did urge Chinese companies to invest in Taiwan. In four years Taiwan’s economy will pick up and Ma will win re-election. The DPP lacks strong potential candidates. Su Zhen-chang is promising, but seems unlikely to be able to win. Meanwhile, even the traditionally DPP-supporting farmers in Taiwan’s South need China’s market for vegetables and other products. Taiwan’s continued participation in the World Health Assembly depends on Beijing. Beijing’s calculation seems to be to prevent Taiwan independence in the near term, then bring Taiwan “back to China,” even if it takes 40 or 50 years. MM Lee said he is looking forward to visiting Fujian Province, where preparations are underway for a new southern economic area linked with Taiwan.
Editor’s note: publishing the cables
In a third such exercise, WikiLeaks has given the Guardian prior access to around 250,000 state department cables
Sunday 28 November 2010 18.24 GMT
The articles published today and over coming weeks are drawn from US state department cables which were sent earlier this year to WikiLeaks, an organisation devoted to exposing secrets of all kinds. The Guardian is one of five publications around the world which has had prior access to the material – around 250,000 cables in all – on condition that we observed common deadlines over the timings of release. The others are the New York Times, Le Monde, El País and Der Spiegel.
The leaked material is the third such exercise in which the Guardian and other publications have been involved. The previous two involved military records from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The current release is of leaked dispatches from more than 250 US embassies and consulates worldwide. The documents range from unclassified to “secret”. The latter is two rungs below the most confidential ranking of information: more than three million US citizens are cleared to see “secret” material.
WikiLeaks has not revealed the source of its information. It has played no part in the preparation, editing and reporting of the individual papers. Co-operation with WikiLeaks has been restricted to agreeing the dates on which we could cover specific regions. The news organisations have redacted some of the cables in order to protect a number of named sources and so as not to disclose certain details of current special operations. We have shared our redactions with WikiLeaks.
During the course of working on the material over many weeks each publication has formed its own individual judgments about specific stories. There are some cables the Guardian will not be releasing or reporting owing to the nature of sourcing or subject matter. Our domestic libel laws impose a special burden on British publishers.
All the publications involved have given early warning to the US government of our intention to publish. Government officials, who are aware of the general subjects we intend to cover, have not disputed the authenticity of the overall material. They have flagged up some specific, and some general, concerns.
The US state department has said that it has prepared for the release by reviewing thousands of cables and alerting relevant parties around the world in advance.