China is well-positioned to explain its actions in the South China Sea and does not require Singapore to be its spokesman, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
Responding to a question from a Bloomberg reporter on whether China is using reclamation efforts in the resource-rich waters to further its disputed claims, he said: "China will have to explain its actions and how it fits in with the implementation guidelines of the DOC, because they are a co-signatory of this."
He was referring to the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, or "DOC" for short.
"Singapore, certainly not myself, doesn't need to be a spokesman for China; and China is very well-positioned to explain its own actions," he said yesterday at the annual ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting in Langkawi.
"But if we use the implementation guidelines in the DOC as a starting point, that has a number of statements which are quite clear in terms of governing and prescribing behaviour. And both ASEAN and China are signatories."
The DOC includes the provision "to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability".
While some ASEAN claimants to areas of the South China Sea charge that China has violated the DOC, China has made known its view that the Philippines has violated the DOC and Vietnam is on the verge of doing so. Both are ASEAN members.
On India, Dr Ng said Singapore has always taken the view that it is an important partner for ASEAN in the region. Asked if he sees India playing a bigger role in the South China Sea, he said: "We certainly want them to."
This article was first published on March 17, 2015.
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