24 March 2015
Mr Lee Kuan Yew has been the most instrumental factor in the development of Singapore’s relations with the United States. In fact, bilateral ties were initially very much centred on the friendship between Mr Lee and successive American leaders who deeply respected his strong conviction, clear big-picture vision and extraordinary strategic leadership.
The Vietnam War could be said to have strengthened Mr Lee’s cachet and standing with Washington. Mr Lee saw American participation in the war as buying time for non-Communist states in Southeast Asia, and played a role in stiffening US resolve to resist Communism. Singapore’s independent and non-aligned foreign policy orientation gave him great credence within the American policy establishment, as a neutral party supporting their military campaign in Vietnam.
Mr Lee remained a vital interpreter of events in Asia long after the Vietnam War ended. His standing in American policy circles has been explained by Foreign Minister K Shanmugam, who notes that Mr Lee recognised some fundamental truths about the US and the world well before other states and leaders. Mr Lee saw that strong US presence was vital to maintain peace and balance in Asia as the Asian economies developed, and supported it long before it was fashionable to say so. Singapore was often in the minority of voices, sometimes even alone, in speaking up for the US in the developing world and forums such as the Non-Aligned Movement.
…Ong Keng Yong is Executive Deputy Chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University. This piece is written in his personal capacity.
IDSS / RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 01/12/2015