PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHGH RUEHHM RUEHNH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGP #1932/01 2920841
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 190841Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4263
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1998
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 1842
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 4105
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5723
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 1359
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 SINGAPORE 001932
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/17/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV ECON CH TW BM SN
SUBJECT: LEE KUAN YEW ON BURMA'S "STUPID" GENERALS AND THE
"GAMBLER" CHEN SHUI-BIAN
Classified By: Ambassador Patricia L. Herbold. Reasons 1.4(b)(d)
¶1. (C) Summary: ASEAN should not have admitted Burma,
Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam into the organization in the
1990's, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew told visiting EAP DAS
Christensen and the Ambassador October 16. Expressing his
scorn for Burma's leaders, MM Lee called them "dense" and
"stupid." After discussing China's influence over Burma, he
suggested that Indonesian President Yudhoyono, as a former
general, could potentially be an interlocutor with the
regime. Turning to cross-Strait relations, MM Lee
characterized President Chen Shui-bian as a "gambler" who was
ready to "go for broke" on independence. He thought that
Japan might be willing to speak out publicly to constrain
Taiwan now that Yasuo Fukuda was prime minister. China's
strategy for Southeast Asia was simple -- "come grow with me"
because China's rise is inevitable. MM Lee urged the United
States to pursue more Free Trade Agreements to give the
region options besides China. End Summary.
ASEAN's Problematic Newer Members
¶2. (C) Regional stability will be enhanced the more ASEAN is
able to "get its act together," Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew
told visiting EAP DAS Christensen and the Ambassador during
an October 16 meeting. However, ASEAN should not have
admitted Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as members in the
1990's, Lee argued. The older members of ASEAN shared common
values and an antipathy to Communism. Those values had been
"muddied" by the new members, and their economic and social
problems made it doubtful they would ever behave like the
older ASEAN members.
¶3. (C) MM Lee was most optimistic about Vietnam. He
characterized the Vietnamese as "bright, fast learners" who
will contribute to ASEAN's development. Vietnam also does
not want to see China's influence in Southeast Asia become
too great. Cambodia has not recovered yet from its difficult
history and the political system is too personalized around
Prime Minister Hun Sen. MM Lee dismissed Laos as an outpost
for China, saying Laos reports back to China on theQproceedings from all ASEAN
Burma's Generals: "Dense" and "Stupid"
¶4. (C) Turning to Burma, MM Lee expressed his scorn for the
regime's leadership. He said he had given up on them a
decade ago, called them "dense" and "stupid" and said they
had "mismanaged" the country's great natural resources. He
asserted that China had the greatest influence over the
regime and had heavily penetrated the Burmese economy. China
was worried that the country could "blow up" which would
endanger its significant investments, pipelines, and the
approximately two million Chinese estimated to be working in
the country. India was worried about China's influence in
Burma and was engaged with the regime in an attempt to
minimize China's influence. India lacked China's finer grasp
of how Burma worked, however.
Resolving the Crisis in Burma
¶5. (C) MM Lee thought one possible solution to the crisis in
Burma would be for a group of younger military officers who
were less "obtuse" to step forward and recognize that the
current situation was untenable. They could share power with
the democracy activists, although probably not with Aung San
Suu Kyi, who was anathema to the military. It would be a
long process. He said that Burma's ambassador in Singapore
had told MFA that Burma could "survive any sanctions" due to
its natural resources. Lee said dealing with the regime was
like "talking to dead people."
SBY as Envoy?
¶6. (C) Asked about the possibility of ASEAN naming a Burma
envoy, MM Lee said an envoy could not be from Singapore,
because Singapore is seen as too close to the United States.
He suggested that Indonesian President Yudhoyono could
potentially be an interlocutor. As a former general, SBY
SINGAPORE 00001932 002 OF 003
might be able to meet with Senior General Than Shwe and get
him to listen. Furthermore, SBY is "keen to play the role of
peacemaker," but the challenge would be getting someone who
is not too close to the United States to ask him to do it.
MM Lee said that Vietnam was a possibility.
Chen Shui-bian: The Gambler
¶7. (C) MM Lee told DAS Christensen his September 11 speech to
the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council set the right "balance" and
made it clear to both sides where the United States stands.
He criticized President Chen Shui-bian for being a "gambler."
Chen had discredited himself with his corruption scandals
and the only card he had left was promoting Taiwan
independence; with nothing left to lose, Chen was ready to
"go for broke." MM Lee asserted that Chen feared a
post-election criminal investigation regardless of whether
the KMT or DPP won and had to "consolidate his position."
Chen wanted to secure his legacy and avoid becoming a mere
"footnote" in Taiwan history.
¶8. (C) Lee said he had told Frank Hsieh and Su Tseng-chang in
separate meetings earlier this year that Taiwan would gain
nothing from pursuing independence and would pay a great cost
if it did. They responded that if Taiwan did nothing, it
would be reunified with the mainland; they did not want to be
a part of the PRC under any circumstances. Lee said he
understood their negative history with the KMT but found
their "antipathy, hatred, and revulsion" toward China to be
A Role for Japan
¶9. (C) Japan should speak out to restrain Taiwan from making
provocative moves towards independence, MM Lee said. He
asked what Japan had agreed to do in response to the proposed
referendum on joining the UN under the name Taiwan. DAS
Christensen noted that Japan has expressed its opposition
privately with President Chen, but did not agree to make any
public statements opposing the referendum. MM Lee suggested
that Japan might be willing to make a public statement now
with Yasuo Fukuda serving as prime minister. Fukuda has
close ties to the KMT and his father even risked China's ire
to attend former President Chiang Ching-kuo's funeral in
1988, according to Lee.
Dealing with a Rising China
¶10. (C) The more fundamental issue was how to deal with a
rising China, MM Lee observed. The intellectual resources of
the United States were being "sucked away" by the problems in
the Middle East, making it difficult for the United States to
focus on China. Over the next several decades, China wants
to concentrate on its internal economic development and to
avoid a conflict over Taiwan, Lee averred. However, if
Taiwan declared independence, China would have no choice but
to respond with force because its leaders have left
themselves no "loopholes." China hopes that the Taiwan issue
will be resolved on its own over the next fifty years when
Taiwan's economy becomes "totally embedded" into China. He
pointed to the case of Hong Kong, where the economy has been
booming in recent years due to its greater access to China's
market and the influx of tourists from the PRC.
ASEAN and China
¶11. (C) China's strategy for Southeast Asia was fairly
simple, MM Lee claimed. China tells the region, "come grow
with me." At the same time, China's leaders want to convey
the impression that China's rise is inevitable and that
countries will need to decide if they want to be China's
friend or foe when it "arrives." China is also willing to
calibrate its engagement to get what it wants or express its
displeasure. In the case of Singapore, China took "great
umbrage" over then-Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's
July 2004 visit to Taiwan. China froze bilateral talks, and
the proposed bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has not
progressed. However, China did not "squeeze" any of
Singapore's investors and China remains the largest
SINGAPORE 00001932 003 OF 003
destination for Singapore's FDI. MM Lee urged the United
States to pursue more FTAs with ASEAN, or at least key
members of ASEAN, which would give the region more options.
He said Malaysia's unwillingness to bend on its "bumiputera"
policy had been an impediment to a U.S.-Malaysia FTA.
¶12. (U) DAS Christensen has cleared this message.
Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website: