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China wishes Russia-Ukraine conflict did not happen, wants quick resolution: Ng Eng Hen

China wishes Russia-Ukraine conflict did not happen, wants quick resolution: Ng Eng Hen

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (fourth from left) hosting ministers and their representatives to a luncheon at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Jun 11, 2022. (Photo: MINDEF)

SINGAPORE: China wishes that the war between Russia and Ukraine did not happen, and it wants a quick and peaceful resolution, Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Saturday (Jun 11).

"China, like the rest of the countries, wish that this conflict didn't happen. And (it) wants quick resolution and peaceful resolution," he told reporters on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Dr Ng was speaking after hosting 27 visiting ministers and their representatives, including China's Defence Minister Wei Fenghe, to a luncheon on the second day of the defence forum.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, addressing the dialogue, earlier labelled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as what happens when "oppressors trample the rules that protect us all".

Representatives who attended the luncheon had discussed China's relationship with Russia and urged Beijing to take a stronger stance on the conflict, Dr Ng said.

China has not condemned Russia's attack and does not call it an invasion, but has urged a negotiated solution.

Beijing and Moscow have grown closer in recent years. In February, the two sides signed a wide-ranging strategic partnership aimed at countering US influence and said they would have "no 'forbidden' areas of cooperation".

"I think we all understand the impact that (the conflict) will have on us globally. But weighed against that is how do you also deter further aggression," Dr Ng said after the luncheon.

"Because the concern is if ... there is looking away from when sacred laws, rules are broken, would you encourage further violations of international law?"

Dr Ng said there is consensus that the global community has to send a "right message" when the "sacred law is broken - that you can't invade another country because that’s the whole basis that countries exist".

"But in practicalities, there's also the understanding that if you want to prevent that, principles alone may not work. They have to be accompanied by practical measures, confidence building, de-escalating measures," he added.

For instance, Dr Ng pointed to how the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus worked on a set of ground rules on how to de-escalate an unplanned encounter between naval vessels and military aircraft.

The ADMM-Plus is a platform for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its eight partners – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States – to strengthen security and defence cooperation in the region.

"So, there are no quick fixes. Trust takes time to build and you're only as good as your last act. If you betray the trust, well, trust is broken," Dr Ng said.

"So I would say that in that sense, the Ukraine invasion has reemphasised for ASEAN ministers and ASEAN-Plus ministers, how important it is to build trust in times of peace."

Even with these rules in place, disputes will happen, Dr Ng said, and the question then is how countries should resolve this.

"The more important point that is coming through is there should be preferred resolution through peaceful means, and that was the strong message that was coming through from many of the Asian countries, he added.

"And I think that spells enormous confidence, enormous hope, for ASEAN and Asia that you can resolve that."

Source: CNA/hz(gs)