Use rule of law, not might in South China Sea spats: Singapore PM Lee

China would do well to be seen as a powerful but law-abiding nation

 
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong with former US ambassador to Singapore J. Stapleton Roy, who moderated the dialogue organised by the Council on Foreign Relations, a US-based think-tank, in Washington on Tuesday. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

THE nations involved in territorial spats in the South China Sea should rely on international law to resolve their disputes, rather than lean on the idea that "might is right", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told a dialogue.

Responding to a question on China's overlapping claims with other Asian countries in the resource-rich waters, Mr Lee also noted that the world's second- largest economy would do well to follow the US example of being seen as a powerful but generally rule-abiding country.

Singapore is not directly involved in the disputes, but has backed Asean's call for restraint and a code of conduct to manage the issue. Four Asean nations - Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei - as well as Taiwan have competing claims with China in the South China Sea.

"We don't all have to have a dispute in order to make common calls," Mr Lee said at the session on Tuesday organised by the Council on Foreign Relations, a US-based think-tank, and moderated by former US ambassador to Singapore J. Stapleton Roy.

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