Singapore welcomes China's efforts to systematically develop its relationship with ASEAN countries at multiple levels, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
This includes Chinese President Xi Jinping's proposal of a "21st-Century Maritime Silk Road", which would link several ASEAN countries and China through the South China Sea.
Asked about the proposal in an interview with the Nanfang Daily, Mr Lee said "this strategic concept of improving connectivity and creating an economy belt will benefit our region".
He made clear that ASEAN "hopes to be friends with and work with all countries".
"Hence, as ASEAN enhances its ties with China, it is also increasing cooperation with other countries and regions, such as the United States, the European Union and Japan," he said.
"This is how ASEAN can play a useful role, in fostering regional cooperation and economic integration in our region and beyond." In the interview conducted before his week-long trip to southern China starting yesterday, he was asked about talk that the creation of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone could affect Singapore's position as the region's financial hub.
The zone was established last year to pilot financial reforms such as unrestricted foreign currency exchange and simplified procedures for foreigners setting up companies in China.
Dismissing such a view, Mr Lee said Singapore sees the liberalisation and development of China's financial industry as an opportunity, not a threat. "Financial institutions in Singapore do a lot of business with other leading financial centres like New York and London," he said.
"So as China's financial sector matures and opens up, it will create more opportunities to deepen ties with Singapore. It will be mutually beneficial and will offer new opportunities to our financial institutions and beyond."
This article was first published on Sep 12, 2014.
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