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Interview: Singapore PM on regional, int'l affairs

Source:   Time:

SINGAPORE, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- The Newsweek magazine recently gave Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong the title "the middle man," saying that Singapore managed to carve out a role as friend to all the big powers in the region. During a recent exclusive interview with Xinhua, Lee shared his thoughts on some of the regional and international issues.

Year 2011 will mark the 20th anniversary of China's relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Speaking on ASEAN-China ties, Lee said the "ASEAN-China relationship is one of the most active and substantive among ASEAN's dialogue partnerships."

He noted China is a major trading partner for every Southeast Asian economy, adding that China's continued support for ASEAN's central role in regional cooperation is deeply appreciated.

"Singapore welcomes China's growing engagement and investment in ASEAN. We hope that China will continue to play a constructive and stabilizing role in the region." Lee said.

He added Singapore hopes to play a bridging role between China and ASEAN, because it is a Southeast Asian country that shares a deep cultural affinity with China. For example, the Singapore- China bilateral FTA was a pathfinder for the subsequent China- ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, which has further strengthened economic links between ASEAN countries and China.

Speaking on Sino-U.S. relations, Lee said the Sino-U.S. relationship is key to stability in East Asia.

He said the relationship will always be complex and multi- faceted. "There will be differences from time to time, but I believe both sides understand the need to have good and stable relations," he said.

"Both sides can benefit enormously from cooperation, given their increasing interdependence across the economic, political and security spheres, while friction will be costly and conflict disastrous for both. This should help maintain Sino-U.S. relations on an even keel."

He added that regular dialogue can help to manage difficult issues and discover areas where both sides can cooperate for mutual benefit. The dialogue mechanisms developed by China and the United States in the last few years, including the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, can play a role in fostering understanding and defusing tensions.

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