SINGAPORE (Jan 8): Singapore has punched above its weight in international relations. But it cannot always be the mouse that roared.

Its principled stand on the importance of adhering to international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, after the tribunal ruling against China in July 2016 on its South China Sea claims, earned the island republic the opprobrium the “little red dot” in Chinese media, and the detention by Hong Kong authorities in November that year of nine armoured personnel carriers on their way back to Singapore after a routine training ­exercise in Taiwan.

So, it cannot be expected that, as Asean chair in 2018, Singapore would lead any great regional resolution on respect for international law in the South China Sea. China’s fait accompli in what has become a Chinese lake would be quietly accepted de facto.

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