Jakarta, KL 'know S'pore won't harm their interests'

Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam gave his first comments Friday on allegations that Singapore had spied on its neighbours, saying "the Indonesians and Malaysians know that we won't do anything to harm their interests".

Without giving away any details, he said Singapore works with the Americans, Australians, Malaysians and Indonesians on various aspects of counter-terrorism.

"The point is the Indonesians and Malaysians know we won't do anything to harm their interests," he said.

But he noted that on intelligence matters, the Government would not confirm or deny any specific reports, even if they are untrue.

"You cannot, on intelligence matters, be coming out and saying this is true, this is untrue. Or this is 5 per cent true, that is 95 per cent false... (or) this line in your article is true because it says that we do this sort of thing. Never-ending," he said.

Reports in Australian and Dutch media this week said Singapore and South Korea were working with "Five Eyes" intelligence partners, including the United States and Australia.

Based on documents from US intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the reports came in the wake of disclosures that Australian intelligence had wiretapped the phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and top officials, sparking outrage in Jakarta.

Mr Shanmugam, speaking at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum at Shangri-La hotel Friday, said the articles "gratuitously" brought Singapore into the fray and were rehashed from stories originally published in August.

The only difference this time was, he added, "Singapore was mentioned in rather tenuous circumstances".

Asked by the dialogue's moderator, Straits Times Editor Warren Fernandez, if the allegations would harm Singapore's ties with Indonesia and Malaysia, he said they should not as "what we do, what Malaysia does, what Indonesia does, is known to all of us".

The forum, an annual affair organised by The Straits Times, was presented by ANZ Bank, with partner Mercedes-Benz, and attended by more than 400 people.

In the 90-minute dialogue, Mr Shanmugam was also asked about China's new air defence zone, which overlaps those declared by Japan and South Korea, and covers contested territory.

Mr Shanmugam said the "entire suite of developments" reflects an underlying trend of domestic nationalism pressuring all the major players into illogical moves. "Nationalism can be a force for good, it can also impact on logic when it comes to foreign policy," he said.

"Logic will dictate that these issues should be set aside, and we should continue as we have done.

"And each time you think logic would prevail and that you know, it can't get any worse... an incident can easily happen."

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