Singapore won't confirm or deny spy allegations: minister

AFP , Friday 29 Nov 2013

File Photo: Singapore's Foreign Minister K Shanmugam speaks to the media at the parliament house in Singapore July 8, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Singapore on Friday said it would not be drawn into confirming or denying allegations that it was part of a US-led electronic spying network in Asia.

Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said at a forum that neighbours Indonesia and Malaysia, which summoned Singapore's envoys this week over reports that such a network exists, are aware that the city-state has no intention to harm relations.

"You cannot say, this is five percent true or 95 percent true, that we work with the Americans and Australians on this aspect of counter-terrorism but not this aspect," he said in comments carried by the Straits Times website.

The ensuing back-and-forth on any Singapore statement on specific intelligence issues would be "never ending," he said.

"The point is that the Indonesians and Malaysians know that we won't do anything to harm their interests," he said at a forum hosted by the newspaper.

Singapore, which considers itself a prime target of Islamic extremists, works closely with its neighbours as well as Western countries against terrorism.

The comments were the first from a Singapore government minister since the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday reported that Singapore and South Korea played key supporting roles in a "Five Eyes" intelligence network grouping the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Asked if the report would harm ties with Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia, Shanmugam, who is also the law minister, said it should not because "what we do is known to all of us".

The report, based on leaks provided by fugitive former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, said Singapore capitalised on its status as a telecommunications hub to serve as an important link in tapping undersea cables for the network.

Singapore's envoys to Malaysia and Indonesia were summoned by their host governments Tuesday to provide clarifications on its alleged involvement in the spying operations.

Singapore is a long-standing military partner of the United States. The US military operates a post in the city-state that assists in logistics and exercises for its forces in Southeast Asia.

The US Navy maintains a logistical command unit -- Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific -- in Singapore to coordinate warship deployment and logistics in the region.

Squadrons of US fighter planes are also rotated to Singapore for a month at a time, according to a report by the US Congressional Research Service.

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