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Message-ID: <199802030757.CAA11841@access4.digex.net>
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 1998 02:57:34 -0500
Reply-To: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
From: Alex G Bardsley <bardsley@ACCESS.DIGEX.NET>
Subject: Fwd: MY: Singapore-US naval deal 'a provocation' (SCMP)
To: Multiple recipients of list SEASIA-L <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>

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Singapore-US naval deal a provocation

By Ian Stewart, South China Morning Post Internet Edition,
Tuesday 3 February 1998

Kuala Lumpur - Singapore has been criticised strongly in Malaysia over a new defence arrangement with the US, which a Malaysian newspaper described as a provocation.

The attack comes ahead of a trip to Thailand by Malaysia's Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad later this week, in a continuing effort to bring about greater co-ordination among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in dealing with the regional financial crisis.

Malaysia is believed to feel that the turbulence is encouraging an every-country-for-itself outlook in the region, reflected in Singapore's decision to give American aircraft carriers and other warships access to a new naval base, which is expected to be ready in two years.

The agreement followed a statement by Dr Mahathir that he did not want an increased American military presence because it would create anxiety throughout the region.

Analysts said Singapore favoured a strong United States presence as protection against the possibility of political turmoil sweeping the region. Berita Harian, a leading Malaysian newspaper, described the Singapore decision as a slick move being made at a time when everyone's attention was on the economic crisis in the region.

Singapore's action is another provocation, which is unsettling, it said.

Ties between Singapore and Malaysia have been strained by a range of disputes, including their conflicting claims to a small island and the recent row over remarks made by Singapore's Senior Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, disparaging the Malaysian state of Johor.

Officials of the youth wings of the United Malays National Organisation and the Malaysian Chinese Association, the two main government parties, accused Singapore of failing to respect the Asean accord declaring the region a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality.

Ruslan Kassim, an executive committee member of the organisation's youth wing, said it was a big slap in the face of Singapore's neighbours.

This is like disturbing the hornet's nest, he said.

Mr Kassim said Singapore's action gave credence to the theory that it was afraid of its own shadow.