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Jin Yinan, from the PLA’s National Defence University, says it’s inevitable China will strike back at Singapore. Photo: SCMP Pictures

Chinese defence adviser turns up heat on Singapore over South China Sea row

Jin Yinan, from the PLA’s National Defence University, accuses city state of siding with US over maritime dispute

Beijing should impose sanctions and retaliate against Singapore to make the city state “pay the price for seriously damaging China’s interests”, an influential Chinese defence adviser told state radio.

The remarks by Professor Jin Yinan came amid stern criticism by China over Singapore’s reported insistence on including content that backed the Philippines’ position on an international arbitration ruling on claims to the South China Sea in the final document of the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Venezuela early last month.

But Jin, former director of the strategic research institute at the PLA’s National Defence University, turned up the heat further late on Thursday, accusing Singapore of taking an active role in turning the South China Sea dispute into an international issue in recent years. He said Singapore had advised Washington on the matter and stirred up conflicts between the US and China, according to an interview with state-owned China National Radio.

It’s inevitable for China to strike back at Singapore, and not just on the public opinion front
Professor Jin Yinan

“It’s inevitable for China to strike back at Singapore, and not just on the public opinion front,” Jin was quoted as saying. “Since Singapore has gone thus far, we have got to do something, be it retaliation or sanction. We must express our discontent.”

Jin confirmed to the South China Morning Post he had talked to CNR on Thursday and criticised Singapore, but he refused to detail what measures China might take to punish the country.

Jin has been China’s representative at the annual Shangri-La ­Dialogue, a regional security ­forum in Singapore, for the past two years.

In his interview with the broadcaster, he put forward ­several examples that he said showed Singapore was involved in escalating the South China Sea issue to the international level, which had harmed China’s national interests.

He said Singaporean Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong devoted his entire one-hour speech at last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue to the matter.

“What’s the full name of the Shangri-La Dialogue? Is it the Asia Security Summit? There are so many topics about Asian security, including unbalanced development, pollution, environment, climate, terrorism, racial problems ... But all the problems were ignored and the focus was just on China’s South China Sea disputes,” Jin was quoted as saying. “Who set up such a main topic?

Jin said the Singaporean government, which jointly organised the forum with British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies, had played the key role in sending the disputes to the top of the agenda.

The PLA major general also criticised late Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, saying he had given advice to US President Barack Obama, that caused Washington to turn its “pivot to Asia” into “the rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific”.

He said the senior Lee had lost Beijing’s respect. “We understand [Singapore] has to survive among big countries,” Jin said. “But now Singapore is not seeking balance among big countries – it is playing big countries off against each other ... this is playing with fire.”

But now Singapore is not seeking balance among big countries – it is playing big countries off against each other ... this is playing with fire
Professor Jin Yinan

The Singaporean embassy in Beijing and the country’s consulate in Hong Kong did not respond to requests for comment before publication time.

In the interview, Jin highlighted the strategic value of Singapore’s Changi Naval Base to the US military, saying it was the reason America called Singapore the US navy’s “third anchor” in the Asia-Pacific region, after Japan and Australia.

Jin also questioned whether Singapore was remaining neutral between China and the United States. By opening the base, Singapore was helping the US to establish a presence in an area crucial to China’s oil ­imports.

“Singapore claims it is a non-aligned country and its Changi Naval Base is an open port. But why don’t you invite the Chinese navy to berth at it?”

State media have in recent days joined in criticising Singapore’s stance in South China Sea disputes after a war of words between Singapore’s ambassador to China Stanley Loh and Hu Xijing, the editor-in-chief of Global Times, which reported on the NAM summit.

Singapore said the request at the summit was raised by all Asean members.