Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong warns against nuclear ‘arms race’ on Asian soil, isolating China during Tokyo conference
- Singapore’s PM Lee warned that any talk about deploying or developing nuclear weapons in Asia could lead to an unstable outcome in the region
- Lee also urged that China remain integrated in the region, days after US President Joe Biden visited Asia to launch an Indo-Pacific plan that excludes Beijing
“In Japan and South Korea, sensitive issues are being raised publicly, including whether to allow nuclear weapons to be deployed on their soil, or even go a step further and build capabilities to develop such weapons,” Lee said.
“But if we only look at regional security from the perspective of individual nations, we may end up with an arms race, and an unstable outcome,” he said. “We should maximise the opportunities for countries to work and prosper together, and minimise the risk of tensions worsening into hostilities.”
Still talk of such development has come to the fore following Biden’s visit to the countries this week.
The term “extended deterrence” has often been used in Washington’s strategic circles to refer to the ability of the US to use its entire range of military capabilities, including its nuclear arsenal, to defend its allies.
“Such channels need to be worked out and established between the US and China, and between other countries which have disputes with each other,” he said.
Lee also urged that China remain integrated in the region.
“If US-China relations continue on this path, it will lead to further bifurcation of technology and splitting of supply chains or even worse unintended consequences.”
Lee’s comments came after Biden paid his first visit to Asia as president this week, holding summit talks in South Korea and Japan, and launching the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a grouping of 13 regional nations that includes Singapore, but excludes China, the world’s second-largest economy.
Lee also warned against “reshoring” or “friend-shoring,” where countries build supply chains only with friends and allies.
“Such actions shut off avenues for regional growth and cooperation, deepen divisions between countries and may precipitate the very conflicts that we all hope to avoid,” he said.
Noting that Wong was picked by the party and not him, Lee said he did not have post-retirement plans for now, when asked if he would take the mantle of senior minister after stepping down.
When Prime Minister Lee succeeded Goh in 2004, the elder Lee then became Minister Mentor, with Goh becoming senior minister.
“I am planning to make myself be in a position … to hand over as prime minister to my successor, after which I see it as my responsibility to help him succeed and to help Singapore to continue to succeed.
“Whatever he thinks I am useful to him for, I shall be happy to fulfil,” Lee said.
Additional reporting Reuters