(Oct 20): These are fraught times for Asia-Pacific nations caught in the crossfire of the intensifying US-China rivalry. I recently wrote about how one longtime US ally, the Philippines, is repositioning itself between Washington and Beijing. But Manila is hardly alone in trying to protect itself as the geopolitical giants clash.

Singapore confronts a similar challenge, which was thrown into relief by an interview that its prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, gave last week. Lee's remarks may rankle some US analysts. Yet they highlight the dilemmas faced by weaker states — and point to some imperatives of success for America.

First under the legendary Lee Kuan Yew, and now under his eldest son, Singapore has pulled off a shrewd balancing act in a contentious neighborhood. Singapore's dynamic economy has been buoyed by Chinese trade and investment, and its population is mostly ethnic Chinese. Yet getting too close to a powerful China can be dangerous, so Singapore’s government has long viewed Washington as a critical counterweight to Beijing's power. As that power has increased in recent decades, so has Singapore's security cooperation with the US.

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