|06SINGAPORE553||2006-02-24 03:45:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Singapore|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SINGAPORE 000553
1. (C) Summary: Foreign Minister George Yeo and EAP Deputy
Assistant Secretary Eric John conducted a tour d'horizon of
Southeast Asia during their February 9 meeting. FM Yeo said
the United States' engagement with Indonesia was vital and he
welcomed the resumption of U.S. ties with the Indonesian
Armed Forces (TNI). On Burma, Minister Yeo expressed his
frustration with the regime, commenting that while the rest
of ASEAN was moving forward, Burma was moving backwards.
With the rise of China and India, FM Yeo stressed the
importance of the United States continuing to play the role
of "benign superpower" in Southeast Asia. Vietnam, in
particular, was interested in being able to use the United
States (and Japan) "to play off" of China. DAS John said the
President and Secretary would be more engaged with ASEAN this
year and we looked forward to working with Singapore as our
dialogue partner on the ASEAN-U.S. Enhanced Partnership. End
2. (U) During his February 8-11 visit to Singapore, EAP DAS
Eric John, accompanied by the Ambassador, met with Foreign
Minister George Yeo on February 9. Septel will report DAS
John's meetings with other GOS officials.
3. (C) Reviewing USG priorities in Southeast Asia, DAS John
told Minister Yeo that Indonesia was the most important -- we
wanted to build on last year's sea change in our policy. He
noted that some members of Congress remained opposed to the
resumption of military ties with the Indonesian Armed Forces
(TNI) and would be watching progress on TNI reform and East
Timor reconciliation closely. Minister Yeo welcomed the
resumption of ties; while Indonesian President Yudhoyono
"could be more active," he had the country moving in the
right direction. Indonesia was a "big part of the regional
puzzle" and FM Yeo said it was vital for the United States to
be engaged actively with it. He asserted that Indonesia was
not well disposed to China and was evaluating the impact of
China's rise on its own economic development, investment and
4. (C) Expressing his frustration with Burma, FM Yeo said the
rest of ASEAN was moving forward, but Burma was moving
backward. He was not optimistic that any positive change
would occur there soon -- by giving up its chairmanship of
ASEAN, Burma had no more incentives to behave. He added
that, "we are tired of defending them; they don't treat us as
a member of the family." Singapore would not, however, cut
its links with Burma. Minister Yeo said it was
understandable that Indian President Kalam had to visit
Burma; it was a vital buffer state between India and China.
China and India
5. (C) Taking up a familiar GOS theme, FM Yeo observed that
China and India were rapidly making up for lost time and were
joining the international community. In Southeast Asia,
Singapore needed to "carve out space" for itself and to
engage both of these rising powers. To that end, it helped
if other powers, notably the United States, were also active.
Singapore always feared that the United States would lose
interest in Southeast Asia and allow "small problems" to
cloud the big picture. China was active both bilaterally
with ASEAN countries and multilaterally. The stronger China
grew, however, the more ASEAN countries would want the United
States to keep playing the role of "benign superpower."
6. (C) The leadership in Vietnam was smart and disciplined,
observed FM Yeo. Vietnam could not afford to offend its
larger neighbor, China. Vietnam thus wanted to attract the
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United States' interest, which would enable it "to play off"
China against the United States as well as Japan. Minister
Yeo claimed that Vietnam was also "keen" on ASEAN
integration. DAS John commented that Vietnam had
methodically built its relationship with the United States
over the last decade. While the pace had been slow at times,
there was never any backtracking. The President's visit to
Hanoi for the APEC Summit in November provided a useful tool
to advance our ties this year.
7. (C) Democratic development remained a challenge in
Cambodia, observed DAS John, though the pardon and return to
Cambodia of opposition party leader Sam Rainsy was a positive
development. Commenting on his recent trip to Cambodia, FM
Yeo said he had urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to do a better
job managing his ties with the U.S. Congress. When he
suggested to Hun Sen that he send FUNCINPEC leader Prince
Ranariddh as an envoy to Congress, Yeo said a "horrified"
expression came across his face.
8. (C) The President came away from last November's meeting
at APEC with the seven ASEAN leaders enthusiastic about
building ties with ASEAN, noted DAS John. Reflecting this,
the President and the Secretary would be more engaged with
ASEAN this year. The USG looked forward to working with
Singapore as its ASEAN dialogue partner to move forward on
the ASEAN-U.S. Enhanced Partnership, which should put
U.S.-ASEAN ties on a qualitatively different level.
Commenting on USG attendance at last year's ASEAN
Post-Ministerial meeting in Vientiane, FM Yeo said that ASEAN
should have been pleased with the Deputy Secretary's
participation, given his work in opening up trade ties with
the region. For many ASEAN members, however, symbols were
more important than substance.
9. (U) DAS John has cleared this message.