Wikileaks: Lee Kuan Yew, Rants on Asean
Wikileaks: Lee Kuan Yew, Rants on Asean
Jan 2 2011, 10:50 AM
Joined: 25-October 10
Viewing cable 07SINGAPORE1932, LEE KUAN YEW ON BURMA'S "STUPID" GENERALS AND THE
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07SINGAPORE1932 2007-10-19 08:08 2010-12-12 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Singapore
Classified By: Ambassador Patricia L. Herbold. Reasons 1.4((d)
1. © Summary: ASEAN should not have admitted Burma,Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam into the organization in the 1990's, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew told visiting EAP DAS Christensen and the Ambassador October 16.Expressing his scorn for Burma's leaders, MM Lee called them "dense" and "stupid." After discussing China's influence over Burma, he suggested that Indonesian President Yudhoyono, as a former general, could potentially be an interlocutor with the regime. Turning to cross-Strait relations, MM Lee characterized President Chen Shui-bian as a "gambler" who was ready to "go for broke" on independence. He thought that Japan might be willing to speak out publicly to constrain Taiwan now that Yasuo Fukuda was prime minister. China's strategy for Southeast Asia was simple -- "come grow with me" because China's rise is inevitable. MM Lee urged the United States to pursue more Free Trade Agreements to give the region options besides China. End Summary.
ASEAN's Problematic Newer Members
2. © Regional stability will be enhanced the more ASEAN is able to "get its act together," Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew told visiting EAP DAS Christensen and the Ambassador during an October 16 meeting. However, ASEAN should not have admitted Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as members in the 1990's, Lee argued. The older members of ASEAN shared common values and an antipathy to Communism. Those values had been "muddied" by the new members, and their economic and social problems made it doubtful they would ever behave like the older ASEAN members.
3. © MM Lee was most optimistic about Vietnam. He characterized the Vietnamese as "bright, fast learners" who will contribute to ASEAN's development. Vietnam also does not want to see China's influence in Southeast Asia become too great. Cambodia has not recovered yet from its difficult history and the political system is too personalized around Prime Minister Hun Sen. MM Lee dismissed Laos as an outpost for China, saying Laos reports back to China on theQproceedings from all ASEAN meetings.
Burma's Generals: "Dense" and "Stupid"
4. © Turning to Burma, MM Lee expressed his scorn for the regime's leadership. He said he had given up on them a decade ago, called them "dense" and "stupid" and said they had "mismanaged" the country's great natural resources. He asserted that China had the greatest influence over the regime and had heavily penetrated the Burmese economy. China was worried that the country could "blow up" which would endanger its significant investments, pipelines, and the approximately two million Chinese estimated to be working in the country. India was worried about China's influence in Burma and was engaged with the regime in an attempt to minimize China's influence. India lacked China's finer grasp of how Burma worked, however.
Resolving the Crisis in Burma
5. © MM Lee thought one possible solution to the crisis in Burma would be for a group of younger military officers who were less "obtuse" to step forward and recognize that the current situation was untenable. They could share power with the democracy activists, although probably not with Aung San Suu Kyi, who was anathema to the military. It would be a long process. He said that Burma's ambassador in Singapore had told MFA that Burma could "survive any sanctions" due to its natural resources. Lee said dealing with the regime was like "talking to dead people."
SBY as Envoy?
6. © Asked about the possibility of ASEAN naming a Burma envoy, MM Lee said an envoy could not be from Singapore, because Singapore is seen as too close to the United States. He suggested that Indonesian President Yudhoyono could potentially be an interlocutor. As a former general, SBY might be able to meet with Senior General Than Shwe and get him to listen. Furthermore, SBY is "keen to play the role of peacemaker," but the challenge would be getting someone who is not too close to the United States to ask him to do it. MM Lee said that Vietnam was a possibility.
Chen Shui-bian: The Gambler
7. © MM Lee told DAS Christensen his September 11 speech to the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council set the right "balance" and made it clear to both sides where the United States stands. He criticized President Chen Shui-bian for being a "gambler." Chen had discredited himself with his corruption scandals and the only card he had left was promoting Taiwan independence; with nothing left to lose, Chen was ready to "go for broke." MM Lee asserted that Chen feared a post-election criminal investigation regardless of whether the KMT or DPP won and had to "consolidate his position." Chen wanted to secure his legacy and avoid becoming a mere "footnote" in Taiwan history.
8. © Lee said he had told Frank Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang in separate meetings earlier this year that Taiwan would gain nothing from pursuing independence and would pay a great cost if it did. They responded that if Taiwan did nothing, it would be reunified with the mainland; they did not want to be a part of the PRC under any circumstances. Lee said he understood their negative history with the KMT but found their "antipathy, hatred, and revulsion" toward China to be "unbelievable."
A Role for Japan
9. © Japan should speak out to restrain Taiwan from making provocative moves towards independence, MM Lee said. He asked what Japan had agreed to do in response to the proposed referendum on joining the UN under the name Taiwan. DAS Christensen noted that Japan has expressed its opposition privately with President Chen, but did not agree to make any public statements opposing the referendum. MM Lee suggested that Japan might be willing to make a public statement now with Yasuo Fukuda serving as prime minister. Fukuda has close ties to the KMT and his father even risked China's ire to attend former President Chiang Ching-kuo's funeral in 1988, according to Lee.
Dealing with a Rising China
10. © The more fundamental issue was how to deal with a rising China, MM Lee observed. The intellectual resources of the United States were being "sucked away" by the problems in the Middle East, making it difficult for the United States to focus on China. Over the next several decades, China wants to concentrate on its internal economic development and to avoid a conflict over Taiwan, Lee averred. However, if Taiwan declared independence, China would have no choice but to respond with force because its leaders have left themselves no "loopholes." China hopes that the Taiwan issue will be resolved on its own over the next fifty years when Taiwan's economy becomes "totally embedded" into China. He pointed to the case of Hong Kong, where the economy has been booming in recent years due to its greater access to China's market and the influx of tourists from the PRC.
ASEAN and China
11. © China's strategy for Southeast Asia was fairly simple, MM Lee claimed. China tells the region, "come grow with me." At the same time, China's leaders want to convey the impression that China's rise is inevitable and that
countries will need to decide if they want to be China's friend or foe when it "arrives." China is also willing to calibrate its engagement to get what it wants or express its displeasure. In the case of Singapore, China took "great umbrage" over then-Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's July 2004 visit to Taiwan. China froze bilateral talks, and the proposed bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has not progressed. However, China did not "squeeze" any of Singapore's investors and China remains the largest destination for Singapore's FDI. MM Lee urged the United States to pursue more FTAs with ASEAN, or at least key members of ASEAN, which would give the region more options. He said Malaysia's unwillingness to bend on its "bumiputera" policy had been an impediment to a U.S.-Malaysia FTA.
¶12. (U) DAS Christensen has cleared this message.
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This post has been edited by Junzi: Jan 2 2011, 11:02 AM
Jan 2 2011, 11:04 AM
Joined: 25-October 10
Thursday, 04 June 2009, 09:08
S E C R E T SINGAPORE 000529
EO 12958 DECL: 06/04/2029
TAGS OVIP (STEINBERG, JAMES B.), PREL, MNUC, ECON, SN, CH,
SUBJECT: DEPUTY SECRETARY STEINBERG’S MAY 30, 2009
CONVERSATION WITH SINGAPORE MINISTER MENTOR LEE KUAN YEW
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Daniel L. Shields. Reason 1.4 ( and (d).
¶1. (SBU) May 30, 2009; 6:30 p.m.; The Presidential Palace; Singapore.
¶2. (SBU) Participants:
The Deputy Secretary Glyn T. Davies, EAP Acting Assistant Secretary Daniel L. Shields, CDA (Notetaker)
Minister Mentor (MM) Lee Kuan Yew Chee Hong Tat, Principal Private Secretary to MM Cheryl Lee, Country Officer, Americas Directorate, MFA
¶3. (S) SUMMARY: Deputy Secretary Steinberg used his meeting with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew to stress the importance of Chinese cooperation in addressing the North Korea nuclear issue and to elicit MM Lee’s views on China and North Korea. MM Lee said the Chinese do not want North Korea to have nuclear weapons and do not want North Korea to collapse. If China has to choose, Beijing sees a North Korea with nuclear weapons as less bad than a North Korea that has collapsed. MM Lee asked Deputy Chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff Ma Xiaotian what China can do about North Korea. General Ma’s answer was that “they can survive on their own.” The Deputy Secretary noted that the DPRK could have a fair and attractive deal if it would change its approach. If not, North Korea faces a change of course by the United States, the ROK and Japan. MM Lee said he believes Japan may well “go nuclear.” MM Lee also offered views on the Chinese economy, Taiwan, Chinese leaders, and U.S.-China relations. End Summary.
China and North Korea
¶4. (S) Deputy Secretary Steinberg met with Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on May 30 on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue, the annual international security forum held in Singapore. The Deputy Secretary used the meeting with MM Lee to stress the importance of Chinese cooperation in addressing the North Korea nuclear issue and to elicit MM Lee’s views on China and North Korea. MM Lee said the Chinese do not want North Korea to have nuclear weapons. At the same time, the Chinese do not want North Korea, which China sees as a buffer state, to collapse. The ROK would take over in the North and China would face a U.S. presence at its border. If China has to choose, Beijing sees a North Korea with nuclear weapons as less bad for China than a North Korea that has collapsed, he stated.
¶5. (S) MM Lee said he asked Deputy Chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff Ma Xiaotian what China can do about North Korea. General Ma’s Delphic answer was that “they can survive on their own.” MM Lee said he interpreted this as meaning that even if China cut off aid, the DPRK leadership would survive. This is a leadership that has already taken actions like killing ROK Cabinet Members in Burma and shooting down a KAL flight. If they lose power, they will end up facing justice at The Hague, like Milosevic. They have been so isolated for so long that they have no friends, not even Russia. They have not trusted China since the Chinese began cultivating ties with the ROK, given China’s interest in attracting foreign investment, he said. The Deputy Secretary noted that the DPRK could have a fair and attractive deal if it would change its approach. If not, North Korea faces a change of course by the United States, the ROK and Japan. MM Lee expressed worry about the effect on Iran if the DPRK persists. MM Lee said he believes the DPRK can be contained and will not proliferate, but Iran has very high ambitions, ties to Shiite communities outside Iran, and oil wealth.
¶6. (S) The Deputy Secretary noted that North Korea’s decisions will have an impact in Japan. MM Lee said he believes Japan may well “go nuclear.” The Chinese must have factored this into their calculations and concluded that the prospect of Japan with nuclear weapons is less bad than losing North Korea as a buffer state. The Chinese take a long-term view and must think that within a few years the DPRK’s current leadership will be gone and there will be new leadership, with new thinking. But there will still be a North Korea, he said.
¶7. (S) MM Lee said he wishes the USG well in its efforts on North Korea, but he would be surprised if the North Koreans agree to give up nuclear weapons. They might give up a first-strike capacity, but they want nuclear weapons in case the USG decides to seek regime change. They are psychopathic types, with a “flabby old chap” for a leader who prances around stadiums seeking adulation. MM Lee noted that he had learned from living through three and a half years of Japanese occupation in Singapore that people will obey authorities who can deny them food, clothing and medicine.
¶8. (S) MM Lee said the ROK, after seeing what had happened with German unification, does not want immediate unification with the DPRK. There is “nothing there” in the DPRK, other than a military organization. Kim Jong-Il has already had a stroke. It is just a matter of time before he has another stroke. The next leader may not have the gumption or the bile of his father or grandfather. He may not be prepared to see people die like flies. China is calculating all this. They have their best men on the job. They want to help the United States to advance common objectives. But they do not want the South to take over the North, MM Lee said.
¶9. © Regarding the Chinese economy, MM Lee said the global economic crisis has hit many countries, but the feel on the ground differs considerably from place to place. The Chinese economy is reportedly in the doldrums, but when MM Lee visited Jiangsu Province on May 24, his impression was one of continued prosperity. Shanghai has been harder hit, with container port traffic down 30-35 percent, similar to the situation in Singapore. There is no sign of deep unrest in China. The Chinese are very confident they will be able to sustain eight percent growth. The government is pumping resources into the economy, with a focus on developing Western China. Whether such policies can be sustained for three to four years is unclear, but China can certainly sustain these policies for at least a year, he said.
¶10. © MM Lee stated that in the absence of a social safety net in China, the Chinese savings rate is 55 percent, exceeding even Singapore’s 50 percent level. Consumption accounts for only 35 percent of Chinese GDP, as opposed to 70 percent of U.S. GDP. The Chinese leadership may be loath to shift permanently to a more consumption-oriented economy, but the leadership will do so temporarily, if only to avoid unrest. 20 million people have moved back to the countryside because of economic dislocations. The government is providing microfinance to facilitate the transition. The pragmatists are in charge. There is nothing Communist about it. They just want to preserve one party rule. The Deputy Secretary expressed concern that current Chinese policies designed to counter the economic crisis could undermine reform. MM Lee said this cannot be helped. China wants to prevent riots like the ones that happened in Guangzhou in March when Hong Kong-connected enterprises suddenly shut down, he said.
¶11. © The Deputy Secretary asked MM Lee for his assessment of Taiwan. 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.
¶12. © 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.
¶13. © 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.
¶14. © 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 protege, 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.
¶15. © 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.
¶16. © 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.
¶17. © 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.
Build Ties with Young Chinese
¶18. © 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.
¶19. (U) The Deputy Secretary has cleared this message.
Visit Embassy Singapore’s Classified website: http://www.state.sgo...p/singapore/ind ex.cfm
Jan 2 2011, 04:15 PM
Joined: 1-February 09
Jan 4 2011, 12:05 PM
Joined: 18-January 06
Oh yeah...i think that's bloody true!!!
On NYE we had this maitre d' who basically trained in Singapore for 6 months, and u could tell he was different from the communist proletariat type who couldn't be arsed about service. That dude was just hoppin and poppin and makin sure everyone's champagne was topped up fast enough to keep the bill running at gazillion dongs!!!
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