U.S. committed to Asia: Lee Kuan Yew


SINGAPORE, AFP

The United States will remain committed to Asia under President George W. Bush, Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew said in remarks published Sunday.

Reacting to concerns the newly installed Republican leadership in the United States would shift foreign policy from the region to Europe, Lee said: “Asia is unlikely to be abandoned.”

But Lee told journalists on the sides of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that the Bush administration should have someone with a deep background on the region, the Sunday Times said.

“I know Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice. They’re not quitters. I don’t think we’re in any doubt that the U.S. intends to be committed to Asia.”

Cheney is Bush’s vice president, while Powell and Rice are his secretary of state and national security adviser, respectively.

However, Lee added that “it would be an advantage to have someone with a longitudinal depth in the region.”

Singapore’s founding father said Washington would influence Asia’s political and economic landscape through the way it dealt with mainland China.

He said Beijing wanted to focus on economic growth and does not want to be “sidetracked” by such issues as the theater missile defense system the Bush administration is pushing after taking over from President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

Beijing has warned Washington against the effects on bilateral relations if it insisted on deploying the system.

Lee also commented on the situation in Indonesia under President Abdurrahman Wahid, saying: “A whole can of worms has been opened. It’s a very difficult situation. I have no advice.”

He defended an earlier comment that he would have preferred a changeover within constitutional procedures in the Philippines, whose democratically elected leader Joseph Estrada was toppled last week in a peaceful civilian uprising backed by the military.

“But I suppose, if you do this regularly, it becomes part of your constitutional process,” Lee said reportedly quoting from a news magazine report, according to the Sunday Times.

Lee’s earlier comments have been criticized by Filipino officials.