Unaccustomed to interviews not held by his state media, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong struggled embarrassingly with a US-based reporter on Friday (Oct 19). The Singapore dictator’s responses were awkward and filled with pauses, incoherence and one-liners especially when contentious topics like South China Sea, US-Sino relationships and his family’s feud cropped up.
When questioned about the South China Sea dispute, PM Lee Hsien Loong clearly struggled and resorted to giving primary school responses saying everyone is a good friend:
“Every country will have… every pair of countries will have issues where, “I wish you’d agreed with me. You wish I’d agreed with you.” But we remain good friends, and it is so with Singapore and the U.S., it is so with Singapore and the People’s Republic of China.”
The CNBC reporter then probed further, referring to the detention of the 9 Terrex vehicles:
“CT: But these issues you’ve had to deal with China last year – any lessons learned for Singapore?”
Lee Hsien Loong dropped another one-liner motherhood statement and did not complete his answer:
“Well I think we understand each other’s position clearer now. Singapore’s position has always been…”
The dictator PM then made a U-turn in his stance from telling China to obey the Hague’s ruling in recent years. Lee Hsien Loong now lied and said he does not take sides:
“In the case of the South China Sea, our position has always been that we are not the claimant state. We have no claims. So we don’t take sides on those claims: who owns which island.”
When the topic touched on his father, Lee Hsien Loong embarrassingly said that he still actively refers to his father’s old speeches:
“We think of him often, we read his old speeches and we say, “well, that’s still relevant to us today.” The way he puts it still has a ring to it.”
Lee Hsien Loong then danced around on the issue concerning the end of his premiership powers he held since 2004, but made it clear that he will not be resigning from politics.
You may read CNBC’s interview transcript here.