SINGAPORE – The Republic has also fallen victim to the massive leak of classified documents which were sent from United States embassies around the world to the US State Department.
Among the some 250,000 US diplomatic memos – which are marked as “secret” – released by online whistle-blower WikiLeaks were details of a meeting in May last year held at the Istana between US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.
The leaked six-page document was published in full on The Guardian’s website and was picked up quickly by news wires and blogs.
During the meeting, held on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue last year, Mr Steinberg stressed the importance of Chinese cooperation in addressing the North Korean nuclear issue and sought Mr Lee’s take on China and the rogue state.
Mr Lee was also asked for his views on the Chinese economy, Taiwanese and Chinese leaders, as well as Sino-American relations.
According to the document, Mr Lee said that, while China does not want North Korea to have nuclear weapons, “the Chinese do not want North Korea … to collapse” – given that if South Korea takes over the North, China “could face a US presence at its border”.
Mr Lee also noted that the North Korean leadership has “no friends, not even Russia” and has not trusted China since the Chinese began cultivating ties with South Korea with an eye on attracting foreign investment.
Describing the North Koreans as “psychopathic types, with a ‘flabby old chap’ for a leader who prances around the stadium seeking adulation”, Mr Lee said he had learnt from living through the Japanese Occupation that “people will obey authorities who can deny them food, clothing and medicine”.
Mr Lee also said that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s successor “may not have the gumption or the bile of his father or grandfather … and may not be prepared to see people die like flies”. China is calculating all these, said Mr Lee, who also expressed worry about the effect of North Korea on Iran.
Unlike North Korea, Iran “has very high ambitions”, is rich and has ties to Shiite communities in other parts of the world, Mr Lee noted.
On the Chinese economy, Mr Lee said China’s leadership would shift temporarily – by providing microfinance – to a more consumption-oriented economy, “if only to avoid unrest”.
Mr Lee noted that “the pragmatists are in charge. There is nothing Communist about it. They just want to preserve one-party rule.”
Turning to cross-straits relations, Mr Lee said that China’s President Hu Jintao – unlike his predecessor Jiang Zemin – was “more patient and does not have any fixed timeline” to resolve the Taiwan issue.
“What mattered to Hu was that Taiwan not seek independence”, Mr Lee said, according to the document.
On China’s rise, Mr Lee noted that the Chinese “are not stupid” and have avoided the mistake of Germany and Japan which tried to “challenge the existing order”.
Mr Lee said China would not reach America’s level of military capabilities “anytime soon, but (it) is rapidly developing asymmetrical means to deter US military power”.
“China understands its growth depends on imports, including energy, raw materials and food,” Mr Lee said.
Revealing that his own experience as a student in the United Kingdom had left him with “an enduring fondness” for the UK, Mr Lee said the best course for the US on China is to “build ties with China’s young people” – by treating Chinese students in the US as equals and “with the cultural support they may need as foreigners”.
MFA spokesman expresses concerns over WikiLeaks