Singapore — A top United States official explained on Thursday (Dec 2) that the exclusion of Singapore and other nations such as Vietnam and Thailand from next week’s democracy summit does not mean the attendees will “sit in judgment” on those who are absent.
Singapore’s non-invitation is not a commentary on its partnership with the US, said Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink. He is currently on a visit to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.
When asked why Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam were omitted, Mr Kritenbrink is quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying, “This is not designed to be a forum in which we sit in judgment of other countries.
Given that only a number of countries were invited, there are a range of countries including some of our closest partners like Singapore, who were not invited. But that is not a commentary on the strength of our partnership with Singapore.”
Mr Kritenbrink made these remarks at a session with journalists from South East Asia. He explained that the upcoming US Summit for Democracy (Dec 9-10) to which 110 countries and special areas have been invited, is a chance for a “select number” of the democracies around the globe to trade perspectives on how democracy can be promoted as well as how citizens can be served better.
The summit, which was announced in August and will be held virtually, aims to “bring together leaders from a diverse group of the world’s democracies” in order to “galvanize commitments and initiatives across these three principal themes: defending against authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and promoting respect for human rights”.
The White House had described the gathering as “an opportunity for world leaders to listen to one another and to their citizens, share successes, drive international collaboration, and speak honestly about the challenges facing democracy”.
The list of participants was published on Nov 23 on the US State Department website.
Singapore’s closest neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia, were invited.
Also on the guest list is Poland, which was recently accused of human rights violations over a military standoff with migrants at the border with Belarus. Belarus has not been invited.
Another invitee is the Philippines, which until recently was being probed for massive human rights abuses during current president, Rodrigo Duterte’s term in office. Thousands of drug peddlers there have been executed without trial by law enforcement there, with the tacit approval of Mr Duterte.
Then there’s Iraq, where the UN refugee agency says more than 6.5 million people – some 18 per cent of the population – are “in need of humanitarian assistance and protection”.
Additionally, in a move that angered China, the US invited Taiwan, but not China.
All European Union member states are invited except for Hungary, now ruled by far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Turkey is also notably absent. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has grown closer to Russia of late, and also shows an authoritarian hand in ruling the country.
From the Middle East, only Iraq and long-standing US ally Israel were invited.
“The invitation list for Biden’s summit, which will be held Dec. 9-10, underscores the messy nature of 21st-century democracy and U.S. relations with certain allies and partners,” said one report.
US President Biden has said he intends to host a second summit, which will be in person. The aim of the follow-up meeting is to “take stock of the progress made and forge a common path ahead.” /TISG