At the same time that Singapore’s PM Lee Hsien Loong renewed a key defence pact with the US, Malaysian PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was attacking the UN.
Mahathir says there is a need to reform the UN. But the UN was built and structured with the 5 superpowers in mind.
Give them some leeway and the power to veto on some major global actions and the world is safe, peaceful and so on. Minus the major wars that we witnessed since the creation of the UN that is.
Perhaps the only change the UN can bring is to enlarge the super-power base with more countries having a veto?
But forget the UN, pretty soon it will be obsolete. It will go the same way as the Non-Aligned Movement or the Asean, that is useless and non-functional.
The NAM is now the shadow of what it was. In its prime, the NAM could not dictate the terms at the UN. Its member nations were always bought over by one group or another and China got thrashed on the international scene.
Today China is rising and is claiming its place as a superpower. So they say. Funny it is not? China is one of the 5 goonies that has the power of veto at the UN.
China’s story shows how the UN is useless. A country with a large population was left to mend by itself. Today, it is conquering the world. Beijing did not need the UN to become what it is today.
The UN was basically useless for the Chinese. It is as useless for all the other poverty-stricken nations around the world.
With the help of the UN, the Western forces that makeup of 4 out of the 5 superpowers at the UN picked a bone with Iraq and Libya and won.
What else you expect from the UN? What reform can be done to change this global body which is now in a similar state as the World Trade Organisation?
Lee’s deal with the US allows American forces to use Singapore’s air and naval bases, extending it by another 15 years to 2035.
But it does not ‘guarantee’ Lee a safety net as it would have prior to the arrival of the new American era, with President Barack Obama and subsequently with President Donald Trump in power.
Why does that matter? Lee knows that his options are now limited in terms of geopolitics. The new American era in Asia means the powers of the US matters little in the region.
China has conquered vast expanses of the Asean with savory deals in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. The Philippines and Cambodia are basically eating into the hands of China.
The pressure is mounting for Singapore to become a satellite in China’s aggressive expansion.
Nevertheless, an air-naval deal with the US is still a good deal, that gives Singapore a sense of belonging to one of the super-duper powers at the UN.
The US has the veto power at the UN. So if Malaysia is very close with a ‘veto’ country at the UN (China), Singapore, too, is an ally of a ‘veto’ nation, the US.
But does the 30-year deal with the US has the same meaning today, given that the US presence in the region is merely on visitation rights and China is now the domineering power?
Both Singapore and Malaysia have got the priorities wrong if you ask me. This is 2019 and China is the superpower in Asean’s backyard. One is dealing with the US on an important security issue, the other is blasting the useless UN.
DOES ASEAN MATTER?
This is the question. Does the Asean matter anymore? Every single nation in the grouping is acting on their own in terms of regional security.
Malaysia has closed its eyes on China barging into its own territory and into Vietnam’s waters. Vietnam stood up by criticising China but Putrajaya is koi. It is perhaps more worried about the consequences of its deals with Beijing?
It is clear the Asean has lost its shine and the actions of the member countries, including the closer ties between the Philippines and China is not going to cement the organisation.