INTERVIEW/Lee Kuan Yew: Nuclear accident hurt Japan’s reputation as a planner


Lee Kuan Yew interviewed, although apparently only via a “written statement”, with softball questions and answers.  Asahi Shimbun:

Question: Do you think Japan will emerge from this period of enormous challenge stronger or weaker?

Lee: Stronger as a united people, but weaker in its economy.

Q: You point out in your new book, “Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going,” that Japan is in deep trouble with a number of challenges starting with its shrinking and fast-aging population. The recent devastation of March 11 seems to add to that “trouble.” How do you see the impact of March 11 on Japan’s future?

Lee: Japan’s future is a weaker economy for several years.

The years could drag on unless Japan increases its population either by immigration and/or increased births.

Q: What will be the impact of such changes of Japan on the geopolitics of the region?

Lee: Japan is the region’s second largest economy. Any slowdown will affect all its economic partners in the region.

Q: While the earthquake and tsunami were natural disasters, the ensuing nuclear accident contains the elements of human error. Do you think this accident itself and the way Japan has been dealing with it damaged the reputation of Japan’s technological excellence?

Lee: To build a nuclear reactor near the coast where a big earthquake and a tsunami are anticipated to hit without special foundations that can withstand them was damaging to Japan’s reputation as a careful and a thorough planner.

Q: The Japanese government has put off a number of major diplomatic agendas including the decision on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after March 11. Will it not trigger the further self-marginalization of Japan?

Lee: This concentration on the disaster brought about by the earthquake cannot be helped. Japan can catch up on the TPP later.

Q: At the Shangri-La Dialogue, Japan’s Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa disclosed a plan to establish a base for region-wide disaster relief operations in one of the southwestern islands of Japan near Okinawa. What are your views on this proposal?

Lee: Good to explore this proposal to test the region’s response to it.

Q: One big question, which has emerged from March 11, is how we should find the right source of energy, and how we satisfy our energy demands without jeopardizing the security of the lives of the people and the region. The dependence on nuclear power generation has been called into question in many countries. It will also have an extensive impact on the regional security order. What is the right way to think through this enormous challenge?

Lee: This is a difficult question to answer. If no other sources of energy are discovered besides coal, gas and oil, we may have no alternative but nuclear power.

Q: What should we read into the recent disputes in the South China Sea between China and Vietnam/the Philippines in terms of China’s regional strategy and ambition?

Lee: China has proposed the dispute be settled bilaterally. All the other claimants are much smaller than China.

Q: At the Shangri-La Dialogue, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates disclosed the U.S. plan to deploy new littoral combat ships (LCS) in Singapore. Singapore has already concluded the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) with the United States. How much further do you think Singapore needs to enhance its defense cooperation with the United States?

Lee: Singapore will try to meet U.S. needs. Singapore and the U.S. share a belief that a strong U.S. presence in the region enhances regional peace and stability and are committed to further strengthening bilateral defense cooperation in line with the spirit and vision of the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA).

Q: This announcement of new deployment of LCSs by Secretary Gates indicates that the United States believes it is indispensable to enhance its presence and engagement in Southeast Asia to balance out the growing influence of China. What are your views on the strategic balance between the United States and China in the Asia-Pacific region?

Lee: To balance a huge power like China, the U.S. needs partnership with Japan and the co-operation of the countries of ASEAN.

Q: To what extent and how does the Shangri-La Dialogue help Singapore to ensure its security in the region?

Lee: For Singapore to be the venue for discussions on sensitive issues of security is useful to all contending parties. We provide a neutral meeting place where there is no bias in favor of any party.

Q: This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Shangri-La Dialogue, and China finally decided to send its minister of national defense.

Lee: China was doubtful of the value of the exchange at the beginning, probably subjected to questions from the other members of the conference. But they have now decided to send their minister of national defense. They must believe it is a useful venue for dialogue, for an exchange of views that leads to confidence building.

Q: Recently a new geostrategic framework of “Indo-Pacific” has become the currency among policy experts. Do you think it can be more useful than “Asia-Pacific” to address the security and economic challenges that the regional states face?

Lee: India can stabilize the Indian Ocean. I am not sure its navy can effectively extend its reach to the Pacific Ocean.

Q: India has recently been active in showing its presence in the Pacific. Do you think this is beneficial for the security of the region?

Lee: Yes, it is beneficial to peace and stability.

Q: In spite of various efforts by ASEAN countries, the territorial disputes in the South China Sea do not seem to be moving toward a peaceful resolution yet. The recent incidents between Vietnam and China show how volatile the situation still is. What is it that the claimant countries and the major powers in the region can/should do to solve this issue?

Lee: Resolve the issues in accordance with International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

Q: You have mentioned in one of those past interviews the importance of keeping the balance between the United States and China for the stability of the region. What can and should other regional countries including Singapore and Japan do to achieve this goal?

Lee: Japan can be America’s partner for peace and stability. Singapore is playing a much smaller role as an island where the U.S. pre-positions its ammunition and other military equipment.

Q: What do you think of the “strategic chemistry” between the United States and China, especially when China is gaining more confidence in itself as its national power grows? Do you think a bipolar system with these countries at the top can be functional and sustainable?

Lee: Let us wait and see how the relationship develops. There is more benefit for China to have cooperative relations with America. China needs U.S. markets, technology and know-how to grow.

Q: 2012 to 2013 will be the time when a number of major powers in the Asia-Pacific region will go through possible leadership transitions. They include China, the United States, South Korea and Taiwan at least. Some predict instability in the region. What is your view, and what do you think has to be done to prevent any negative impact on the region?

Lee: I do not think the changes in leadership are inherently destabilizing. There will be important changes in the power balance in the next 10 years with a growing China.


10 Responses to “INTERVIEW/Lee Kuan Yew: Nuclear accident hurt Japan’s reputation as a planner”

  1. 1 Anonymous

    Dear Mr Lee Kuan Yew,

    For a man approaching 88 years of age, Mr Lee is still one influential authority on regional security issues.

    It is no wonder somebody once suggested renaming Changi Airport after Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Aye!

    LY Lim

  2. 2 LY Lim

    Dear Mr Lee Kuan Yew,

    For a man approaching 88 years of age, Mr Lee is still one influential authority on regional security issues.

    It is no wonder somebody once suggested renaming Changi Airport after Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Aye!

  3. 3 H Lee

    I personally think Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a staunch anti communist.

    He is , in my opinion trying to create a power struggle in the region between China and US.

    For a Chinese I am of the opinion that it is unbecoming to say the least.

    China’s rise is peaceful and has been stated many times.

    They are trying to contain the collapse of PIIGS country in EU.

    Imagine they are buying bonds from Portugal , Spain ,Greece in the biggest Ponzi game in the World!!

    If I were a currency trader/dealer/investment bankers/ hedge fund holding positions, I would tell the countries concern (to use the words / behaviour of US President George Bush Snr to New York years ago when they had a crisis) “Drop dead”. [Sorry to the people in PIIGS affected by the crises].

    What is the purpose of treating a solvency issue like a liquidity crises? But NO (emphasis added), The Peoples Republic of China (and leaders) wants to carry on trading or business as usual with the EU countries!!! Still lending!!!

    To continue , Just be the cold warriors suffer from lack of enemy to be found since the collapse of Soviets.

    I am of the opinion that the Singaporeans have 3 K’s Kiasu, Kiasi…

    I am also of the opinion they think they are superior to everyone else except the Americans.

  4. 4 H Lee

    I am of the opinion Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore and USA with their allies Japan, Vietnam [did they not fight USA in Vietnam War?] [I do not belief Cambodia, Laos and Thailand trust the Vietnamese in Indo China] are all playing a dangerous game in the China Seas.

    One should not try to play the game of encirclement in someone’s backyard!!! [my opinion]

    This is not Western Pacific.

    A more accurate term is China Seas- South China Seas, East China Seas , Yellow Seas!!!

    Western media will try to call it Western Pacific to confuse the ignorant Americans Aussies etc who do not know much about geography or history.

    There is a song “Dont know much about history or geography” . But the singer knows more about biology!

    I remember a lot of Aussie incl my host family (wife and husband) in Australia could not even find Malaysia on the map she pulled out!!! No she does not know how to use a map and index!

    USA has not been all white (emphasis added).

    See how they support the overthrow of elected Govt of President Salvador Allende in Chile [its against their National Interest to have a leftist Govt never mind its elected], support of the most brutal military regimes in Argentina, Chile , over throw of Iranian Govt, support of Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein only to throw him out!,

    Always issues of National Interest of USA take priority over interest of the country concern!!!

    Look at damage to Cambodia , Vietnam Laos during Vietnam War!!!

    Any contest over the tiny islands (“bird speck”) to small to be habitable , too small to even build a Shell Petrol station) in South China Seas is about “OIL $$$$”.

    To PRC they see it as their backyard.

    Its an area very near their nuclear submarine base in Hainan Island!!!

    There are precedents.

    During Admiral Zheng Ho there were prosperity.

    At least Admiral Zheng Ho did not come with conquest in mind like Western Imperial powers.

    It was about trade.

    To Great Britain it was “OPIUM TRADE” , territory, conquest, their national interest.

  5. 5 H Lee

    So sorry Mr Lee Kuan Yew , USA Defence Dept, Pentagon, CIA , cold warriors if you dont like opinion of others.

  6. 6 Joke

    Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a staunch anti communist.

    What a joke!

  7. 7 H Lee

    Why is there a need for USA with 11 super active aircraft carrier worrying about 1 old refurbish Soviet aircraft carrier?
    PRC does not owe US State Dept nor Mrs Clinton nor Pentagon nor any explanation why they want an aircraft carrier.
    In my personal opinion PRC shouldnt own one. But that is not to say they have no right nor do they owe US nor Jap any “explanation”
    I quote from Defence forum: “Quite frankly, i think that the USA, operating carriers since the 30´s, should know why a nation operates aircraft carriers.” “i dont think that china has any obligation to give those answers to anyone” “Childish in the State Dept in dealing with China.” Japan been operating helicopter carrier too. Nobody question it. Japan has also been allowing more US carrier @ Yokosuka China owe no explanation to any US nor Japan. Mrs Clinton and US State Dept is a busy body and war mongering! “US has 11 carrier n is Q China w 1 carrier!!” “US is like t neighbor questioning your ownership of a revolver as he (uss g washinton cvg visits HK) your house showing off his collection of RPGs and ATGMs. Anr 10 Goon waiting outside yr house” “Its arrogant on the US State Dept’s remark(typical arrogant US behaviour) and questioning the PLAN CV. Here we are with 11 active supercarriers” US defence budget US$600 B n increasing.

  8. sagt:@HiPPiE: Die kenne ich auch noch, aber mit imieitren war da nix drin. Hätte ich damals einen BH angezogen, hätte es meinen Eltern wohl aus den Socken gehauen .

  9. I truly appreciate this blog post.Really thank you!

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