Singapore’s foreign minister to visit China amid strained ties

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 2:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 2:32pm

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will pay an official visit to China from Sunday to Monday as the two nations try to mend their frayed ties.

Trade and economic cooperation will be the focus of the trip, but Beijing will take the chance to urge the city state to refrain from commenting on issues such as sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, observers said.

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Beijing expressed dismay last year after Singapore said nations should respect the international tribunal ruling that rejected most of China’s claims to disputed waters in the South China Sea.

Singapore’s prime minister was not invited to attend the ‘’Belt and Road” international summit in Beijing last month.

Chen Gang, a researcher on regional affairs at the National University of Singapore, said Balakrishnan’s visit to China was a sign the two nations were trying to repair ties.

“China and Singapore want to enhance cooperation on trade and security,” Chen said.

Du Jifeng, a Southeast Asian affairs expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Beijing would tell Singapore not to meddle in regional issues that directly affect China’s core interests.

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“Beijing understands Singapore has to develop relations with other countries, but Beijing certainly hopes Singapore’s moves will not hurt China’s interests, especially in the South China Sea and on Taiwan affairs,” said Du.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday that Balakrishnan was invited by his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to visit Beijing.