Singapore, Malaysia and the WikiLeaks
On Dec. 12, Asia Sentinel printed a story relating WikiLeaks revelations from Singapore diplomats about Malaysian political affairs, particularly concerning Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim. Because the cables have seemingly never been accessible through the various WikiLeaks websites and mirror sites, some readers have questioned whether they exist.
They do. Here they are, in their entirety.
162376 11/12/2008 4:05 08CANBERRA1134 Embassy Canberra UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
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S E C R E T CANBERRA 001159 SENSITIVE NOFORN SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR INR AND EAP/ANP E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2018 TAGS: PINR, PREL, AS SUBJECT: CORRECTED COPY: 2008 ANNUAL INR-ONA INTELLIGENCE EXCHANGE REF: CANBERRA 1157 Classified By: Political Counselor James F. Cole for reasons 1.4(a), (b ), (c) and (d) Corrected copy to change classification levels of paragraphs 20 and 21. 1. (S//NF) Summary: The 2008 intelligence exchange between the Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) and the Australian Office of National Assessments (ONA) was held in Canberra, Australia on Tuesday, 14 October 2008. The ONA-hosted event covered a wide range of countries and themes, including Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Japan, the Koreas, China, Russia, Indonesia and the Philippines. A/S Randall Fort led the INR delegation, with INR analysts providing opening remarks in the discussions of Iran and Russia and responding to ONA presentations on South and Northeast Asia. ---------- Courtesy Call with D/DIO ---------- 2. (S//NF) A/S Fort and POLOF on Monday, 13 October, met with Major General Maurie McNarn, Director of the Australian Defence Intelligence Organization (DIO) and his deputy, Mr. Michael Shoebridge at DIO HQ. The group discussed the capabilities of Japanese intelligence service interlocutors, comparing views based on the INR delegation's recent exchange in Tokyo and those of DIO seniors' and analysts' similar interactions. McNarn agreed that there were signs of progress within the senior levels of the Japanese IC regarding trilateral US-AUS-JPN efforts against countries of mutual concern-particularly within the defense intelligence establishment against such themes as North Korean WMD and China's naval capabilities-but noted that incompatible security standards continued to be a major hindrance precluding more robust collaboration. McNarn and Shoebridge were particularly interested in A/S Fort's comments on INR's role in leading US Intelligence Community efforts within the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI), noting that the Australian intelligence community was "hard pressed" to understand the full extent of the threat, let alone serve in a position to lead the coordination of any interagency mitigation efforts. McNarn said the Defense Signals Directorate (DSD) had "the lead" for Australia in tackling the issue but was more focused on traditional intelligence collection/counterintelligence themes, and that Australian intelligence would need to stay engaged with its US counterparts to share lessons learned in the cyber arena. ---------- Courtesy Call with DG/ONA ---------- 3. (S//NF) A/S Fort and POLOF on Tuesday, 14 October, met with Peter Varghese, Director General of the Australian Office of National Assessments, in his office prior to the kickoff of the formal intelligence exchange at ONA headquarters. Varghese made comments similar to those of D/DIO regarding the strengths, weaknesses, and personalities of ONA's Japanese intelligence counterparts. The conversation segued into a discussion of the evolving role of all-source analysis in an environment where senior government officials and other customers had much greater access to information electronically and were increasingly focused on informing, analyzing, and shaping policy options. Varghese asserted that this created an important challenge for ONA and other intelligence services, with relevance in the information age-where "once-secret information was increasingly available through open sources"- determined by the speed and efficiency by which analysts can sift through the volume to highlight "what is important" and put it into context for decision makers. Qcontext for decision makers. ---------- Global Overview ---------- 4. (S//NF) The official intelligence exchange began with each head of delegation providing general introductions of their respective participants and short opening remarks, followed by a "Global Overview" presentation by DG/ONA of Australia's perspective of its security situation and the role of intelligence in informing Australian policymakers in the coming years. 5. (S//NF) Varghese said that ONA was outlining to its customers in the Australian policymaking community a world out to 2030 in which the strategic and economic "Balance of power" was shifting, with the US remaining the preeminent global entity, but facing increasing challenges, especially from emerging or reemerging states like China, Russia, and India. Varghese described the rise of China as the most notable development over the last decade, with an economy on track to become the world's largest by 2020, a rapidly modernizing military that could pose a direct challenge to the US within the region, and an increasingly assertive foreign policy. Varghese described India as "moving from a rhetorical to an interest-based approach" in its international relations-noting that many countries looked to Delhi as the "best option" to serve as a counterweight to Beijing-but cautioned that India's internal social, political, and economic divisions were the greatest impediments to achieving this strategic potential. Varghese said that ONA viewed the US-Japan-China triangular relationship as paramount to the security of Northeast Asia, both in regard to China's rise and the dangers posed by North Korea. Varghese described ONA's "line" on Southeast Asia as "generally doing better than many had expected, but with danger signs in Thailand." In the Middle East, Iran clearly represented the greatest challenge to regional stability-and ONA was focusing most of its attention on Tehran because of it. Varghese asserted that worldwide "Nonproliferation is under stress," citing North Korea, Iran, and Syria as the most recent examples, but terrorism was "a good news story that is getting better, with the violent Islamist threat receding." He concluded with his views on the changing role of international institutions, predicting that as "bilateral approaches reach their limits and multilateralism shows itself unworkable, new institutions that reflect a 'plurilateral' approach will emerge." 6. (S//NF) When pressed on ONA's assessment of terrorism in the Asia-Pacific region, Varghese answered that the growth of Islamic extremism-based movements is constrained, thanks in part to ongoing successes in combined counterterrorism efforts, but more because of societal factors in Southeast Asia that reject the middle-eastern Jihadist model. Varghese and his analysts assessed that Indonesia Islam was "returning to its main course following a detour" driven by personal linkages to the Global Jihad that were formed in Afghanistan in the 1980s. ONA assessed that al-Qa'ida ultimately has failed to achieve the strategic leadership role it sought within the Islamic world. ---------- Iran ---------- 7. (S//NF) ONA analysts thanked the INR Iran analyst for his opening comments, which they described as "unconventional," "provocative," and "worthy of further discussion." 8. (S//NF) ONA analysts assessed that Tehran "knows" about its lack of certain capabilities, but plays "beyond its hand" very skillfully. ONA analysts commented that Iran's Persian culture was a key factor in understanding its strategic behavior, commenting that a "mixture of hubris and paranoia" pervades Iranian attitudes that in turn shape Tehran's threat perceptions and policies. ONA judged that Iran's activities in Iraq - both overt and covert-represented an extreme manifestation of Iranian strategic calculus, designed to "outflank" the US in the region. ONA asserted that-twenty years of hostility and associated rhetoric aside-regime Qyears of hostility and associated rhetoric aside-regime attitudes "have fairly shallow roots," and the most effective means by which Tehran could ensure its national security would be a strategic relationship with the US via some "grand bargain." ONA viewed Tehran's nuclear program within the paradigm of "the laws of deterrence," noting that Iran's ability to produce a weapon may be "enough" to meet its security objectives. Nevertheless, Australian intelligence viewed Tehran's pursuit of full self-sufficiency in the nuclear fuel cycle, long-standing covert weapons program, and continued work on delivery systems as strong indicators that Tehran's preferred end state included a nuclear arsenal. According to ONA, they are not alone in this assessment, asserting "while China and Russia remain opposed to it, they view Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons as inevitable." Varghese concluded the discussion, commenting ONA is telling its customers "It's a mistake to think of Iran as a 'Rogue State'." 9. (S//NF) ONA seniors and analysts were particularly interested in A/S Fort and INR's assessments on Israeli "red lines" on Iran's nuclear program and the likelihood of an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. ---------- Pakistan-Afghanistan ---------- 10. (S//NF) ONA analysts led the discussion of Afghanistan and Pakistan, asserting that Afghan President Karzai's description of the two countries as "conjoined twins" may be accurate in the fact that "illness in one body affects the other," but his tendency to blame Pakistan for all of Afghanistan's problems ignores reality. ONA assesses that the Taliban is not only resilient-but gaining momentum-and "the insurgents think they are winning." ONA analysts emphasized intelligence trends in cross-border activities, safehavens, and divisions within Pakistani security services that highlight their growing concerns about Pakistan, saying that while it is unlikely to fail, it is becoming more fractured and in danger of breakdowns in central control where the security of Islamabad's nuclear weapons could come under threat. According to ONA, Pakistan's economic downturn threatens its ability to focus on counterterrorism, mass unrest, and territorial governance. On a positive note, ONA assessed that "opportunities exist at the tribal level, where the state is unwilling or unable to achieve and/or sustain presence" to engage on common security concerns-noting that while Pakistan's tribal areas were not directly comparable to those in Iraq, some "lessons learned" could be applied in winning the support of the local populace. ONA concluded its presentation by posing an open question of the degree to which the Taliban will have some role in Afghanistan's future, given Karzai's outreach under the rubric of "reconciliation." 11. (S//NF) Varghese commented that in personal meetings and intelligence exchanges with ONA and other Australian services, Pakistani General Kayani continually comes across as ambivalent on the issues of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, reiterating that India remains the core mission-and priority-of the Pakistan defense and intelligence establishment. ONA assesses that Pakistan's military and security elite view this as "an American war," which combined with a very hard sense of anti-Americanism combines into "a very dangerous cocktail." ---------- Northeast Asia ---------- 12. (S//NF) ONA analysts led the discussion of Northeast Asia during a working lunch, providing a regional overview that included China, Japan, Taiwan, the Koreas, Russia, and India. ONA assessed that China, clearly rising to be the region's preeminent power, was focused on a perception management campaign to contain any notions of a "China threat," while Japan was "divided internally" on such basic issues as defining "its own place" in Asia and the modern world-despite its push for a seat on the UN Security Council. ONA viewed the management of the US-Japan alliance as the single most important factor shaping the security of Northeast Asia, whether to balance China, prevent a conflict on the Taiwan Strait, or deter North Korea. ONA viewed the Taiwan Strait situation as "cooling," but stated that the long-term trajectory was negative-especially as Chinese military capabilities grow rapidly in parallel with unmet expectations for a KMT-led government in Taipei "to deliver" on improved ties to the mainland. 13. (S//NF) ONA highlighted India as the strategic power-once firmly ensconced in the non-aligned movement-being courted by the US and its allies to balance China's rise, but noted India's social system and economic disparities posed Qnoted India's social system and economic disparities posed unaddressed sources of internal instability that ultimately undermined its near-term effectiveness and long-term potential. ONA assessed that Japan would continue to push for increased engagement and investment in India, but asserted that Japanese cultural chauvanism continued to be an underlying issue that hindered improved economic and security ties with India. ONA argued that China's ability to acquire "strategic depth" was limited by geography, and that this-combined with an export driven economy that demanded access to international energy, resources, and trade networks-constrained its ability to exert an uncontested sphere of influence akin to the US or Soviet Union during the Cold War. ---------- Russia ---------- 14. (S//NF) ONA analysts concurred with INR analysts' comments on Russia, describing Russia as both "A rising power and a declining state," with a resurgent determination to leverage military force to protect its interests even as demographic trends indicated a diminishing population base from which to support a large-scale military buildup. ONA asserted that demographics were "starting to bite this year," especially in labor sources, and posited that the negative trends in Russia's long-term sustainability were exacerbated by its over-reliance on energy exports for revenues and compounded by increasing economic interdependence with the west. ONA acknowledged that much of its analysis of Russian intent was linked to its focus on the accumulation of power of the former President and the "securicrats," commenting that ONA had "gotten to know Putin very well over the last few years" and that he "set the tone" for Russia's actions at home and abroad. 15. (S//NF) ONA described the Baltic states and Ukraine as "countries that are in Russia's sights," with the dangerous similarities in Moscow's view of the ethnically Russian population and strategic geography of Crimea to those which motivated its recent actions against Georgia. ---------- Southeast Asia ---------- 16. (S//NF) ONA analysts described their outlook for Southeast Asia as "fairly benign," as the region was generally stable and its states were unlikely to come in to conflict with one another in the near term. ONA flagged Thailand's ongoing political crisis as the most troublesome development, observing that current events were driving the country to a boiling point and that it would "will have to make a choice" between democracy-warts and all-and a coup culture reliant upon the of an increasingly fragile monarchy for unity and legitimacy. ONA assessed that the PAD's objectives-to force the government from power via the military and monarchy-are grounded in a widely-shared view that democratically elected officials cannot resist corruption within the current system, suggesting a cycle of dysfunction with no signs of improvement short of royal intervention or revolutionary change. The political climate in Bangkok was a major distraction for Thailand's military and elites, which bodes poorly for the prospects of containing and defeating the southern insurgency, which was increasingly demonstrating a sophisticated cell structure and lethal, well-coordinated terror tactics. 17. (S//NF) Turning briefly to Malaysia, the Australians said that Singapore's intelligence services and Lee Kuan Yew have told ONA in their exchanges that opposition leader Anwar "did indeed commit the acts for which he is currently indicted," citing unshared technical intelligence. ONA assessed, and their Singapore counterparts concurred, "it was a set up job-and he probably knew that, but walked into it anyway." 18. (S//NF) ONA analysts assess "the tide has turned" on Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia, noting that its leadership has been devastated-with most seniors killed, captured, or on the run-and that it has lost its local support networks and funding. ONA judged JI was shifting near term goals to its local, vice global/anti-western, interests while otherwise "creeping ba
k to the shadows" and focusing on survival. JI would endure and regenerate over the long term, albeit as a more localized terrorist threat. ONA and the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) agreed that the QSecurity Intelligence Organization (ASIO) agreed that the impending execution of the Bali bombers probably would not precipitate retaliatory terrorist attacks against Western interests, but small scale operations within and against Indonesian government and security were more likely. 19. (S//NF) ONA asserted that the success of CT efforts in Indonesia were a "study in contrast" to the ongoing downward slide in the Philippines, where the collapse of the peace process in the South threatened to make this area "the new regional incubator of terrorist Jihadis." ONA terrorism specialists noted signals and human intelligence that JI "structuralists" embedded with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were rethinking plans to return to Indonesia, while JI "freelancers" were becoming more active and better linked with Abu Sayyaf Group operatives. ONA judged that the Southern Philippines increasingly contained "all the ingredients of al Qa'ida's favored tilling ground." ---------- Dinner ---------- 20. (S//NF) ONA hosted an official dinner at the Ottoman Restaurant for A/S Fort and his team of INR analysts. Peter Varghese used the dinner as a chance to prompt further discussions on several themes from the exchange, including the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran and the long-term impact of Russia's recent military action against Georgia. 21. (S//NF) ONA Attendees/Interlocutors: Peter Varghese DG/ONA Brendon Hammer DDG/ONA Heather Smith DDG/ONA John Besemeres ADG, Americas and Europe Branch Harry Genn ADG, North and South Asia Branch Peter McDonald ADG, Oceana Branch Russ Swinnerton Acting ADG, Southeast Asia Branch Ian Parmeter ADG, Middle East and Africa Branch Ashton Robinson ADG, Transnational Issues Branch Carolyn Patteson ADG, Executive and Foreign Intelligence Coordination Branch Aldo Borgu Senior Analyst, Strategic Issue Branch Neil Hawkins Senior Analyst, Middle East and Africa Branch Jacinta Sanders Senior Analyst, Middle East and Africa Branch Derek Lundy Senior Analyst, Strategic Analysis Branch Bruce Luckham Senior Analyst, International Economy Branch Graehame Carroll Senior Analyst, North and South Asia Branch Mike Hillman Consultant, North and South Asia Branch Julia Dixon Senior Analyst, Transnational Issue Branch Bruce Luckham Senior Analyst, International Economy Branch John Phipps Senior Analyst, North and South Asia Branch Bill Wise Senior Analyst, North and South Asia Branch Roger Hodgkins Senior Analyst, North and South Asia Branch Luke Yeaman Senior Analyst, International Economy Branch Kyle Wilson Senior Analyst, Americas and Europe Branch David Wall Senior Analyst, Americas and Europe Branch Susan Creighton Senior Analyst, International Economy Branch Christopher Collier Senior Analyst, Southeast Asia Branch Marcus Lumb Senior Analyst, Southeast Asia Branch Simone Alesich Senior Analyst, Southeast Asia Branch Kevin Smith Senior Analyst, International Economy Branch MCCALLUM
3/13/2008 5:56 08SINGAPORE310 Embassy Singapore CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN 08KUALALUMPUR160
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SINGAPORE 000310 SIPDIS SIPDIS NOFORN E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/13/2028 TAGS: PREL, MY, SN SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S DISCUSSION WITH MFA PERMSEC HO ON MALAYSIAN ELECTIONS REF: KUALA LUMPUR 160 (NOTAL) Classified By: Ambassador Patricia L. Herbold for reasons 1.4 (b,d). 1. (C) The Ambassador and MFA Permanent Secretary Peter Ho met over lunch on March 12, discussing issues including Singapore's perceptions of the elections in Malaysia (reftel.) Ho said that in Singapore "everybody was shocked" by the extraordinarily strong showing by the opposition in Malaysia. People knew that change was coming, perhaps one election down the road, but did not anticipate that change could come this fast. 2. (C) Ho said that on the ruling National Front (BN) side, PM Abdullah Badawi is probably done for politically, despite having been sworn in again as PM on March 10. Former PM Mahathir Mohamad will keep throwing stones at Abdullah. The political knives will be out for Abdullah's son-in-law UMNO politician Khairy Jamaluddin, whom nobody likes because he got where he is through family ties. As for Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, he is an opportunist. Although he has not been critical of Singapore, he will not hesitate to go in that direction if it is expedient for him to do so. Najib's political fortunes continue to be haunted by the Mongolian murder scandal. (Note: The scandal involves the ongoing trial of Najib's former political adviser Abdul Razak Baginda for abetting the 2006 murder of the Mongolian woman who had been Abdul Razak's ex-lover; two policemen from Najib's protective detail also are on trial for carrying out the murder. End Note.) The MIC's Samy Vellu bears a large share of the responsibility for the BN's poor showing in the elections. The Indian community's unhappiness, which helped create the current political dynamic in Malaysia, reflects the fact that Samy Vellu neglected the interests of the Indian community, even when its temples were being destroyed, focusing instead on his business activities in India, Ho said. 3. (C) Ho stated that on the opposition side, former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim came out of the elections in a strong position, as shown by the electoral victories by his wife (whom Ho commented he has met and finds very impressive) and his daughter. The Islamic PAS will be pushed in a more pragmatic, less radical direction by its increased proximity to real political power. Within the ruling coalition, UMNO could find itself pulled in the opposite direction as it comes under increasing pressure to compete with PAS, Ho said. 4. (C) Ho expressed pessimism about Malaysia's future prospects. Malaysians from the Chinese and Indian minority communities keep leaving the country. The relative size of the Malay Muslim majority keeps increasing. As a result, more Malaysian students are studying in religious schools and fewer are studying in more rigorous secular schools. This is harming Malaysia's international competitiveness, Ho said. Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore/ind ex.cfm HERBOLD
170368 08SINGAPORE1019 Embassy Singapore CONFIDENTIAL 08SINGAPORE1001|08SINGAPORE586
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 SINGAPORE 001019 SIPDIS E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/16/2018 TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PREL, ASEAN, SN, MY, BU, ID, IN, TH, KN, CH, RU SUBJECT: DASD SEDNEY HEARS OF SINGAPORE'S MALAYSIA ANXIETIES (AND BILAHARI'S TAKE ON THE REST OF THE WORLD) REF: A. SINGAPORE 1001 B. SINGAPORE 586 Classified By: DCM Daniel Shields for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 1. (C) Summary: Singapore perceives a distinct possibility of racial conflict in Malaysia, Bilahari Kausikan, MFA Second Permanent Secretary told David Sedney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia September 15. Kausikan offered his view that if racial conflict provoked ethnic Chinese to flee Malaysia, they could "overwhelm" Singapore. Providing views on events elsewhere, Kausikan said the situation in Thailand is not as dangerous as in Malaysia, but the current political instability in Thailand would continue. Indonesia is the most stable of the three countries, but its governance is weak. Burma's neighbors prioritize its stability, fearing that the junta's collapse could provoke a Yugoslavia-style breakup. Kausikan predicted India would not be able to serve as a counter-balance to China for a long time due to serious deficiencies with its physical and legal infrastructure. Arguing that North Korea's leaders just want to survive, Kausikan said he is more comfortable with the prospect of a nuclear-armed North Korea than a nuclear-armed Iran. Regarding Russia (where he once served as Ambassador), Kausikan said no one should be surprised by Russia's actions in Georgia but dismissed any notion of a Russian resurgence, citing its serious domestic and demographic challenges and its over dependence on oil revenue. End Summary. Anxiety About Malaysia ---------------------- 2. (C) The situation in neighboring Malaysia is confused and dangerous, Singapore perceives a distinct possibility of racial conflict, Singapore MFA Second Permanent Secretary Bilahari Kausikan told Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Sedney in a September 15 meeting. (Embassy Comment: The Kausikan meeting took place a few days after Malaysian authorities arrested three persons, including two ethnic Chinese citizens, under the Internal Security Act, causing a political uproar, but no security incidents. End Comment.) Kausikan warned that Malaysia's current political instability could lead to unconstitutional action or a "constitutional emergency." He did not think that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had found the thirty crossover votes in Parliament necessary to fulfill his vow to bring down the government. But one side or the other might try the "time-tested strategy" of inciting communal conflict or some other incident to provoke a reaction. The possibility of conflict is high because the three competing factions backing Anwar, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, and Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak all have much at stake. Should Anwar fail in his bid to become Prime Minister, he would likely end up back in jail. Najib "has his neck on the line" in connection with a high-profile murder case and also needed to prevail politically in order to avoid prosecution. Having been in power for so long, ruling UMNO party leaders would also likely face repercussions if they lost power. 3. (C) A lack of competent leadership is a real problem for Malaysia, Kausikan said. Anwar might be the most competent leader, but he too comes with liabilities. While Anwar had made concessions to non-Muslims in order to build his coalition, he is unlikely to live up to his commitments to his non-Muslim partners should he gain power, Kausikan predicted. Should racial conflict break out, China would be compelled to weigh in on behalf of the ethnic Chinese population in Malaysia, though it was unlikely (at that stage) that anyone in Malaysia would listen to China's concerns. Kausikan said the GOS is also watching the situation carefully as it fears any significant racial conflict in Malaysia could lead to an influx of ethnic Chinese to Singapore and "overwhelm" Singapore. (NOTE: 60,000 - 70,000 Malaysians commute daily to work in Singapore. END NOTE.) Kausikan characterized Malaysian traditional foreign policy as including elements that are 1) anti-western, 2) pro-business, 3) supportive of China's growing role in the region. However, as China's influence in the region grows, Malaysia's "pro-Malay" domestic policies would eventuallylead to problems with China. SINGAPORE 00001019 002 OF 003 Thailand Not as Dangerous ------------------------- 4. (C) The situation in Thailand is confused, but not nearly as dangerous as in Malaysia, Kausikan said. Although Thaksin was corrupt, so is everyone else, including the opposition, he said. While Thaksin tried to reform the political structure of the government, he made a mistake in pursuing a relationship with the Crown Prince by paying off the Crown Prince's gambling debts. Kausikan said the Crown Prince was "very erratic, and easily subject to influence." However, even after the coup ousted Thaksin, his party still remained in power, and would continue to remain in power. Thus, the current instability would likely ontinue in Thailand. Indonesia Most Stable --------------------- 5. (C) Kausikan noted that there is ongoing debate within Indonesia over what kind of country it will eventually become: a unitary state, a federal state, or a loose confederation. Indonesia is "greening" (i.e., becoming more Islamic) but not as quickly as Malaysia, and Indonesia is unlikely to evolve into a theocracy. The role of the military is one of the big issues that still needs to be addressed, as the military is one of the few consistently effective institutions in the country. However, despite Indonesia's significant governance and structural problems, it is much more stable than either Malaysia or Thailand. Burma's Neighbors Prioritize Stability Over Justice --------------------------------------------- ------ 6. (C) Kausikan praised the United States' humanitarian assistance response to Cyclone Nargis in Burma, adding that it was far superior to the approach taken by European countries such as France. Addressing the political situation,Kausikan argued that Burma's neighbors, including China and India, are more concerned with stability than justice there. Burma has over 100 different ethnic groups, and despite the Burmese military's obvious problems, the military is "holding everything together." Burma's neighbors feared that if the junta were ousted, things could get worse, this could produce an Asian reprise of the breakup of Yugoslavia. India Not Yet a Match For China ------------------------------- 7. (C) Kausikan said that India is not a counter-balance to China and would not be for a long time, due to serious deficiencies with both physical and legal infrastructure. Indian politics is always complicated and the decision-making process is cumbersome. At the same time, there exists a nostalgia among some segments of the population for India's former role as a leader of the so-called "Non-Aligned Movement" that looked to the USSR as a natural ally of India and the Non-Aligned" states. Kausikan claimed that India had changed its previous view that "weak neighbors make good neighbors," and that it now desired its neighbors to be stable and their governments to be capable. Expressing a "personal opinion," Kausikan said he had "no problem with" the U.S.-India nuclear deal. North Korea ----------- 8. (C) Describing North Korea as a "theocracy," Kausikan expressed optimism that some of its leaders realize its economic situation is unsustainable and that some changes will have to be introduced. He noted that Kim Jong Il has become less critical of China's economic transformation. Despite the often virulent ideological statements, the leadership of North Korea just wants to survive, Kausikan argued; thus he would be "more comfortable with a nuclear-capable North Korea, than a nuclear-capable Iran." Recalling his two visits to North Korea (in May, reftel, and two years ago), Kausikan said he noticed several subtle signs of improved conditions in the three cities he visited. He compared favorably conditions in Pyongyang today to those he observed in Hanoi when Vietnam opened up in the 1990s. SINGAPORE 00001019 003 OF 003 Same Old Russia --------------- 9. (C) Recounting his former service as Singapore's Ambassador to Russia, Kausikan said no one should be surprised by Russian actions in the Caucasus. "Russia is just behaving like Russia," he added. Despite Russia's current "bravado," the country is in serious trouble. The economy is "third world," the health care system is a shambles, and the demographic challenges are almost insurmountable, he said. Russia has little influence in Southeast Asia and appears to have no clear strategy for what it wants to achieve in Asia. Rather, it appears just to join organizations and events just to prove to itself that it remains a great power. Kausikan said Russia's dependence on oil revenue left it vulnerable to market fluctuations. He doubted the country would be in any better shape ten years hence. China's Focus Internal, Can be Patient on Taiwan --------------------------------------------- ---- 10. (C) China's major domestic concerns will continue to keep the government's primary focus internal, Kausikan said. High inflation, a bad banking system, growing social inequity, increasing nationalism, a looming environmental catastrophe and the need to sustain high growth rates are all key challenges for China's leadership. China appears willing to work with the new KMT leadership in Taiwan, and Cross-Straits relations have improved greatly over the last year. Kausikan praised China's appointment of the unusually capable Wang Yi to run the Taiwan Affairs Office. He suggested that China had adopted a long-term approach to Taiwan and was not in a hurry to change the status quo. Vietnam ------- 11. (C) The economy of Vietnam is experiencing significant inflation for the first time, Kausikan said. However, the country is stable, has competent leadership, and would likely "weather the storm." Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore/ind ex.cfm HERBOLD
223666 9/4/2009 4:24 09SINGAPORE852 Embassy Singapore CONFIDENTIAL
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SINGAPORE 000852 SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MTS - M. COPPOLA E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/04/2019 TAGS: PREL, SN SUBJECT: SINGAPORE MFA'S TOMMY KOH TALKS CHINA, SE ASIA WITH STAFFDEL LUSE SINGAPORE 00000852 001.2 OF 002 Classified By: E/P Counselor Joel Ehrendreich for reason 1.4(d) 1. (C) Summary: Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh offered Staffdel Luse his views on Southeast Asian countries' relations with China, the United States, and each other in an August 17 meeting. According to Koh, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members do not fear China's rise or its investment in their natural resources, instead welcoming Chinese economic and diplomatic engagement. Japan and India have failed to engage the region as effectively as China has. Nevertheless, the United States arguably remains ASEAN's most important external partner, and there are many opportunities for U.S. development assistance to ASEAN countries. Within ASEAN, Indonesia may be starting to consider itself too important for the organization, and Malaysia remains politically volatile because of electoral shifts in the opposition's favor. Singapore does not want, and will not permit, Timor Leste to join ASEAN. End summary. A Singaporean View of China's "Peaceful Rise" --------------------------------------------- 2. (C) Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh offered Staffdel Luse a provocatively sanguine view of China's rise at an August 17 meeting. Koh noted that Chinese civilization (along with India's) is re-emerging on the world stage after 1,000 years of eclipse, and China is determined not to "screw up." He explained that he does not see China's relations with Southeast Asia in terms of a cultural or economic invasion. With combative body language very different from his usual tranquil demeanor, Koh declared, "I don't fear China. I don't fear being assimilated by China." On the contrary, he said he applauds China's investment and intelligent diplomacy in the region. He drew an analogy to Chinese engagement in Africa, where, he asserted, Africans "thank the Lord" that the Chinese are there to buy their natural resources without lecturing them about human rights and democracy as the West does. 3. (C) Koh disputed the idea that China is mainly interested in controlling Southeast Asia's natural resources. According to Koh, China's principal strategic objective in the region is to secure peaceful relations with the countries to its south so that it can focus on its "troubled borders" elsewhere. The current peaceful state of China-ASEAN relations is an achievement, he said, in light of the problems that existed as recently as 30 years ago, when China was funding insurgencies in ASEAN countries and lacked meaningful economic integration with the region. Though Vietnam has historical reasons to be wary of Chinese power, Koh said most countries in the region regard the prospect of a strong China with benevolence, not fear. 4. (C) On the other hand, the claim that Southeast Asian countries are gravitating to China is exaggerated, Koh said. Within ASEAN, there is no consensus that China is the group's most important external partner; some would assign that role to the United States, or even Japan. According to Koh, the only ASEAN country firmly within China's sphere of influence is Thailand. (Note: Koh did not explain how he arrived at this rather surprising conclusion. End note.) Although Cambodia is close to China, it is even closer to Vietnam, and it also wants better ties with the United States. 5. (C) Koh acknowledged that the ASEAN countries must remain united in order to manage their relationship with China effectively. He said they have been successful in this so far. For example, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines prevailed on the other seven ASEAN members to present a united front in the negotiations that led to the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. If ASEAN fails to remain united in future dealings with China, Koh added, it will be ASEAN's own fault. "Stupid" Japan and India Are the Regional Losers --------------------------------------------- --- 6. (C) Koh described Japan as "the big fat loser" in the context of improving ties between China and ASEAN. He attributed the relative decline of Japan's stature in the region to Japan's "stupidity, bad leadership, and lack of vision." He was equally merciless toward India, describing his "stupid Indian friends" as "half in, half out" of ASEAN. (Note: Koh has co-chaired the two meetings of the SINGAPORE 00000852 002.2 OF 002 India-Singapore Strategic Dialogue held so far. End note.) India has failed to match its rhetoric about looking to the east with corresponding actions, Koh said. Nevertheless, he added, Southeast Asia is lucky that the Chinese and Indian civilizations are re-emerging at roughly the same time. How the United States Should Engage Southeast Asia --------------------------------------------- ----- 7. (C) The United States has an important role to play in Southeast Asia, according to Koh. He said he would encourage President Obama to meet with the ASEAN leaders as a group during his November trip to the region. Koh's "wish list" for the U.S. role in Southeast Asia is topped by maintaining the strategic balance, ensuring more consistent engagement with the region as a whole, and taking ASEAN more seriously in order to help member states achieve the Millennium Development Goals. He said there are many areas in which the United States can assist Southeast Asian countries, laying particular stress on infrastructure development, but also mentioning education and the empowerment of women. Koh noted approvingly that the Obama Administration has, in his view, acknowledged that the United States cannot build democracy "directly" in another country. Indonesia's Swelling Head, Malaysia's Volatile Politics --------------------------------------------- ---------- 8. (C) Addressing ASEAN's prospects over the next five to ten years, Koh said the only member country that has expressed doubt about remaining in ASEAN is Indonesia. He pointed to Indonesia's recent assertiveness in global affairs, saying that membership in the G-20 and warming relations with the United States pose a risk that Indonesia will feel "too big" for ASEAN. (Note: Koh said essentially the same thing to EAP DAS Scot Marciel in February. End note.) Koh said Indonesia's desire to project itself on the world stage may be a historical norm that was evident during Sukarno's time, went into "hibernation" while Suharto focused his attention on internal development, and is now reappearing in the post-Suharto era. 9. (C) Koh rated the performance of Malaysia's new prime minister Najib Razak as a "brave beginning" but added that he fears there may be skeletons in Najib's closet that will come back to haunt him. Likewise, Koh expressed reservations about opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who he said is so determined to be prime minister that he may make "Faustian bargains" to achieve that goal. Koh observed that the 2008 Malaysian general election reflected a "tectonic shift in Malaysian politics that we don't fully understand." In that election, for the first time, young urban Malays showed themselves willing to vote for political parties that did not base their identities expressly on race, he said. Timor Leste Need Not Apply to ASEAN ----------------------------------- 10. (C) Koh told Staffdel Luse that Timor Leste will not become a member of ASEAN as long as Singapore is a member. He said admitting Timor Leste would "take us back 30 years." ASEAN has enough problems trying to build up Burma, Laos, and Cambodia, he added. 11. (U) Staffdel Luse reviewed this message. Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website: http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore