Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father and minister mentor, and the grand old man of Asian politics famously blunt with his views, appeared to have offended nuclear-armed North Korea in an unusually frank “advice” dispensed during a supposedly private diplomatic conversation to a visiting US diplomat last year.
In one of the most blistering lines in a trove of diplomatic correspondence, Mr. Lee was quoted in a June 4, 2009 U.S. cable released by WikiLeaks as telling U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg that the North Koreans are “psychopathic types, with a ‘flabby old chap’ for a leader who prances around stadiums seeking adulation.”
“They are psychopathic types, with a ‘flabby old chap’ for a leader who prances around stadiums seeking adulation,” Lee said.
Hahaha…..you’re damn rite, Mr Minister Mentor, especially your comment about the ‘flabby old chap’. I think that comment of yours have set off hoots of laughter worldwide. But Mr Lee, better be careful….don’t play play lah because you never know what Kim Jong-Il may do to get back at you. I heard he is incensed at you!
Lee’s stunning remarks made international headlines in major papers like Agence France-Presse and Wall Street Journal.
Lee also told Steinberg that China “would prefer a nuclear-armed North Korea than a North Korea that has collapsed because it sees the country as a buffer state.”
It is not known if Lee’s statements will have any impact on bilateral relationships between Singapore and North Korea since he is still a full-fledge minister in the Singapore cabinet and therefore his words cannot be dismissed as simply be made in his personal capacity.
There were no immediate comments from the octagenarian Lee while his “mentee” ministers scramble to limit the fallout from his yet another embarrassing faux paus.
In the Singapore cable on a conversation between the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Singapore’s former prime minister and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, Lee commented on the cross-strait policies by several mainland Chinese presidents.
The cable recorded Lee as commenting that “Jiang wanted to show he was a great man by solving the Taiwan issue in his lifetime, but Hu is more patient and does not have any fixed timeline,” referring to former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and his successor, the incumbent Hu Jintao.
“On Taiwan, Hu will be pragmatic,” the cable paraphrased Lee as saying. “It does not matter to Hu if it takes 10 years or 20 or 30. The key is building links with Taiwan. As in the case of Hong Kong, if necessary the tap could be turned off.”
Under this context, Lee said that “Hu could live with Ma’s positions on the ’92 consensus’ and on not addressing the reunification issue during his term in office. What mattered to Hu was that Taiwan not seek independence,” according to the cable.
Lee’s assessment is that “Beijing’s calculation seems to be to prevent Taiwan independence in the near term, then bring Taiwan ‘back to China,’ even if it takes 40 or 50 years,” the cable showed.
Lee also expressed his belief that Xi Jinping, who is believed to be the next Chinese President, will continue Hu’s Taiwan policy.
The secret June 4, 2009 US State Department cable from the US Embassy in Singapore reported on the senior State Department official’s conversation with MM Lee Kuan Yew:
MM Lee said China is following an approach consistent with ideas in the Chinese television series “The Rise of Great Powers.” The mistake of Germany and Japan had been their effort to challenge the existing order. The Chinese are not stupid; they have avoided this mistake. China’s economy has surpassed other countries, with the exceptions of Japan and the United States. Even with those two countries, the gap is closing, with China growing at seven-nine percent annually, versus two-three percent in the United States and Japan. Overall GDP, not GDP per capita, is what matters in terms of power. China has four times the population of the United States. China is active in Latin America, Africa, and in the Gulf. Within hours, everything that is discussed in ASEAN meetings is known in Beijing, given China’s close ties with Laos, Cambodia, and Burma, he stated.
The cable document can be found on the WikiLeaks website. It is part of what it calls Cablegate.