Small states are primarily concerned with stability and international rules: Ng Eng Hen

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SINGAPORE - Stability is the primary concern for small countries like Singapore which also champion the importance of international rules that protect the interests of all nations, no matter their size, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Sunday (May 15).

He acknowledged that small states cannot determine the rules of the world. Even so, there have been times - including when Russia invaded Ukraine - that Singapore has spoken out to preserve the existing global order, Dr Ng said.

"Singapore's recent actions underscore our strongest commitment to the preservation of sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity, which we believe is a fundamental bedrock for a free and stable world order, and smaller countries' right to survive and thrive," he added.

It is in this light that Singapore relates to movements on the international stage, including the rise of China and its strategic competition with the United States.

Dr Ng was one of four panellists at a discussion on China at the annual Lennart Meri Conference in Estonia.

The security and foreign policy conference, which was first organised in 2007, brings together policymakers and analysts from around the world.

The wide-ranging discussion took in speakers' thoughts on China's ambitions and plans, as well as how its actions should be understood in the light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

They also spoke of Sino-US competition, the upcoming Quadrilateral Security Dialogue summit, and how these might impact the international order.

The other three speakers represented the perspectives of the US, India and Australia. They were: Ms Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund, Professor C. Raja Mohan, a senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute and Ms Natasha Kassam, director of the Lowy Institute's public opinion and foreign policy programme.

On China, Dr Ng noted that the superpower has reiterated its fundamental support for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and pledged to "uphold the legitimate rights and interests" of small and medium-sized countries.

Even so, risks remain - chiefly, a potential decoupling between China and the US. Such a bifurcated global system would have disastrous consequences for the world, he said.

"We are too connected, and such a choice, if it had to be made, will impoverish countries and imperil global security."

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