Viewing cable 05SINGAPORE3352

05SINGAPORE33522005-11-23 07:22:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Singapore
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2015 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Judith R. Fergin for reasons 1.4(b)/(d 
¶1. (C) SUMMARY:  Admiral Fallon, accompanied by Charge 
Fergin, met separately on November 14 with Prime Minister Lee 
Hsien Loong and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong to discuss 
bilateral security cooperation and regional issues, most 
prominently, China.  In open and relaxed discussions, both 
leaders expressed their strong commitment to assisting the 
United States to maintain a stabilizing military presence in 
the Asia-Pacific region by providing access to their military 
facilities.  They strongly encouraged the United States to 
pursue a policy of broad engagement)-including military to 
military-)with the PRC, and saw the recent lessening of 
tension across the Taiwan strait as providing a window of 
opportunity.  PM Lee identified extremist Islam and terrorism 
as the most immediate and dangerous threats to Southeast 
Asia; praised Indonesian President Yudhoyono,s efforts and 
encouraged the United States to fully restore military ties 
with that country; and worried about the increasing 
separatist violence in southern Thailand.  Admiral Fallon 
thanked the two leaders for Singapore,s sustained support 
for U.S. forces and participation in OIF and OEF.  END 
¶2. (SBU) Admiral Fallon began his conversations by explaining 
the principal objectives of his visit: to see for himself the 
facilities Singapore has made available to the United States, 
reinforce multilateral efforts to better secure the Malacca 
Strait, and discuss regional issues, principally the 
implications of the rise of China and the threat of 
¶3. (C) Senior Minister Goh immediately turned the discussion 
to China, pointing out that in the months since Admiral 
Fallon took command, tensions in PRC-Taiwan relations had 
clearly receded.  This change created new opportunities, SM 
Goh suggested, and asked Admiral Fallon for his impressions 
of the implications for U.S. China policy.  The Admiral 
described U.S. relations with China as broad and 
complex)-with the exception of military relations.  At the 
direction of the Secretary of Defense, the Admiral said he 
was working to develop ideas for step-by-step increases in 
military exchanges and contacts.  A key determinant in this 
process would be China,s response, in particular its 
willingness to be more transparent regarding its military 
capabilities and intentions. 
¶4. (C) SM Goh pointed out that to some extent China,s 
reticence in opening up its facilities to U.S. visitors might 
be because they are &embarrassed8 by their lack of 
capability relative to the United States.  The PLA, he said, 
has manpower but lags in technology.  Whatever the reason, he 
continued, building confidence will take time, and U.S. 
strategy should take this into account.  Singapore, he added, 
currently has no military relations with the PRC but 
recognizes that it should begin to build its own links to the 
PLA.  Minister of Defence Teo would begin this process in the 
next several days when he undertook the first official visit 
by a Singapore Defence Minister to the PRC.  Admiral Fallon 
replied that the United States remained deeply concerned by 
the rapid increase in the PRC,s military spending, a 
significant portion of which was not publicly acknowledged. 
The PRC does have a long way to go in building up its 
military capabilities, but it is closing the gap.  Their fear 
of U.S. &encirclement8-)although unfounded-)also drives 
them to secrecy. 
¶5. (C) China,s rise, SM Goh said, is &everyone,s concern8 
and the countries of the region are adjusting.  The purpose 
of China,s military modernization, he agreed, remains 
unresolved.  China,s immediate concern, clearly, is to block 
or deter Taiwan from formal independence.  China understands 
that the United States opposes Taiwan,s independence. 
However, the Chinese also recognize that if they attack 
Taiwan, the United States will assist in Taiwan,s defense. 
&So, they feel they need weapons to deter the United States 
from coming to Taiwan,s aid too quickly.8 
¶6. (C) Changing the mindset of the younger generation 
Chinese, he concluded, would be key to China,s future 
direction.  The control previously exerted by the communist 
regime, he said, is now a thing of the past as a consequence 
of the pervasive social and cultural influence of not only 
the West but also of Japan and Korea.  The thousands of young 
Chinese who have and will study overseas are also 
increasingly influential.  President Hu Jintao, SM Goh 
observed, is keenly aware of these drivers in Chinese 
society.  His priority is &peace, so China can grow.8  The 
United States, he urged, should continue to reinforce the 
positive trends in China by &engaging more than by 
containing.8  Commenting further on PRC-Japan relations, SM 
Goh suggested the United States try to encourage Japan to 
improve its political relations with Chinese leadership. 
U.S. relations with Japan are &the backbone8 of security in 
Asia, and the United States needs to have Japan with it in 
pursuing its strategic goals with China. 
¶7. (C) PM Lee was equally interested in U.S.-China relations, 
and probed the Admiral for his insights on the PLA 
leadership.  The Admiral told the PM that he had found the 
senior leadership &scripted8 in their conversations but 
that younger officers were more interested in engaging in 
dialogue.  As the United States pursues increased exchanges 
with the PLA, the intended focus will be on the new 
generation of officers.   PM Lee observed that if the PRC was 
genuinely interested in &rising peacefully,8 it should show 
less reluctance to engage and to take advantage of 
opportunities to &make its case.8  One reason the PLA 
senior officers are hard to engage, he continued, is that few 
are truly secure in their positions, and are worried that any 
departure from the party line will be criticized by their 
superiors.  Commenting on the important stabilizing role the 
United States plays in the region, PM Lee noted that even the 
PRC &silently acknowledges8 the benefit of the U.S. 
presence and that this recognition should improve prospects 
for greater engagement. 
¶8. (C) Turning to the threat of terrorism in Southeast Asia, 
PM Lee offered the view that Indonesian President Yudhoyono 
was bringing stability and leadership to his country and was 
slowly making gains against extremists and terrorists.  He 
pointed to the recent Indonesian success in finding and 
killing the JI bomb maker, Azahari, as an indication of 
improved Indonesian CT capabilities.  However, the terrorist 
infrastructure in Indonesia and the southern Philippines 
remained largely intact.  Admiral Fallon described U.S. and 
PACOM efforts to support cooperative efforts among Indonesia, 
Malaysia and the Philippines to disrupt terrorist &rat 
lines8 at sea as well as PACOM,s work with the Philippine 
armed forces (PAF) to build their capacity.  U.S. advisers, 
although not in the field with combat units, are assisting 
the PAF to improve their intelligence fusion and operational 
planning.   PM Lee observed that although the MILF insurgency 
is primarily a Philippine internal problem, as long as the 
MILF continues to harbor JI terrorists, &it is everyone,s 
problem.8  The Admiral suggested that President Arroyo,s 
government was beginning to make some progress-)with 
substantial U.S. assistance--in addressing the underlying 
conditions that have fueled the separatist movements, 
principally the lack of basic services and economic 
opportunities.  PM Lee agreed Arroyo was moving in the right 
direction but again stressed the danger posed by the 
Philippine government,s inability to deny terrorists 
safe-havens and training bases in the south. 
¶9. (C) Regarding security in the Malacca Strait, PM Lee said 
he was pleased that Malaysia had shifted its position and now 
agreed in principle to cooperate with Singapore and Indonesia 
in securing the Strait and to accept assistance from the 
&user countries8 to develop this capacity.  Indonesia, 
however, was still lagging in its political commitment and 
was far behind in actual capacity.  The Indonesians, PM Lee 
continued, have other priorities and are ¬ yet 
convinced8 that the Malacca strait is &their problem.8  He 
went on to urge the United States to continue to support 
President Yudhoyono and asked where the U.S. administration 
stood in terms of restoring normal military and defense ties. 
 The Admiral replied that the United States saw Indonesia as 
strategically important for many reasons and was considering 
how best to deal with continued Congressional restrictions. 
¶10. (C) SM Goh also gave a positive assessment of President 
Yudhoyono,s direction and accomplishments.  However, he 
stressed the lack of political will to engage in a long-term 
strategy to undermine the influence of extremist Islamic 
&preachers.8  The conviction of Abu Bakar Bashir, the JI 
Emir, is not enough, he argued.  JI continues to recruit 
students from the Islamic schools for further indoctrination 
and, for some, training in terrorist tactics.  Dealing with 
this danger will be a &tough test8 for President Yudhoyono. 
 In the meantime, he hoped the United States and Australia 
would continue to provide the resources and training 
Indonesia needed to strengthen its intelligence and police 
capabilities.  SM Goh also commented on the situation in 
southern Thailand, worrying that outside extremist influences 
would take advantage of the turmoil to establish a presence, 
and criticizing PM Thaksin for his inability to implement an 
effective strategy. 
¶11. (U) Admiral Fallon has cleared this message.