You are here

Regional flareups are but an imprudent touch away

SINGAPORE is a small nation adrift in South-east Asia, a diverse area where conflict is historically prevalent and rifts between nations commonplace. It is thus in everyone's interest that the region is anchored down stably by international organisations like the United Nations, or superpowers concerned with the comity of nations like the United States or China ("US leadership in rules-based international order vital: Heng Swee Keat", BT, April 17).

Unfortunately, history has proven that as the foremost of the superpower nations, the United States is guilty of being the first to either not sign nor ratify or to break pacts, treaties or agreements that have been constructed for global enhancements of rights.

Post-Second World War, these have included cynical non-ratification, participation of or withdrawal from the Geneva Agreement 1954 to put a final end to the Korean war; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 expanding basic rights of humans; the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women 1979 to end gender inequity; the Law Of The Sea 1982 governing activities in international waters; Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 defining the rights of minors; Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban 1996; Mine Ban Treaty 1997 prohibiting production stockpiling or use of these horrendous instruments; Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 1998 for crimes against humanity; Kyoto Protocol on limiting emissions 1997; Paris Climate Accord 2015 to mitigate climate change by limiting emissions..... the list goes on.

It is not surprising that as the Thucydides trap is closing and China may soon become the dominating influence in this part of the world, US engagement in our regional politics will get prickly, with potential for rapid flareups but an imprudent touch away.

Just look at China's claims to almost the entire South China Sea, the United States' probing responses together with China's testy reactions - and how fraught with danger and uncertainty the situation is for our regions' littoral nations becomes clear.

Your feedback is important to us

Tell us what you think. Email us at

Leadership we must have, but from whence it is coming is moot. What is sure is that there always is a certain amount of obeisance and subordination smaller nations must pay for this commodity.

Yik Keng Yeong

BT is now on Telegram!

For daily updates on weekdays and specially selected content for the weekend. Subscribe to