SINGAPORE – Singaporean officials must be more cautious in discussions with U.S. diplomats, the country's foreign affairs minister said Monday, calling the release of classified documents by WikiLeaks disastrous for American diplomacy.
Singapore officials will be less open when speaking with U.S. diplomats for fear their conversations will be made public, Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo said in parliament.
"The WikiLeaks disclosures have been disastrous for U.S. diplomacy," Yeo said. "We have to be more guarded in our communications with U.S. diplomats. If it happened once, it can happen again, so we've got to be more careful."
Last month, WikiLeaks released a document showing Singapore statesman Lee Kuan Yew describing Myanmar's junta leaders as "stupid," and calling North Korea's leaders "psychopathic types" in conversations with U.S. diplomats.
Another confidential cable quoted Singapore diplomats making unflattering remarks about Malaysia, India, Japan and Thailand during meetings with U.S. officials.
Yeo said he would not comment on specific leaks.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam warned news media and private citizens they could be prosecuted under Singapore law for receiving or publishing confidential government information.
"Everyone involved with the leak of information, whether in government or outside, should be dealt with firmly," he said Monday in parliament. "Public interest in the free flow of information cannot justify the abuse of confidential information."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said she had discussed WikiLeaks and the fallout from the leaked cables with many world leaders over the past several months.
Most of the leaders she's spoken with "understand this is something that was unforeseen and unfortunate," Clinton said Monday on a television talk show in Abu Dhabi, where she began a three-nation tour of the Persian Gulf.
"So I don't think it will have lasting consequences. But I will certainly say that it was unfortunate and something we regret," she said.
WikiLeaks is an international, tech-savvy operation that has angered and embarrassed Washington with a series of huge leaks of classified information on its website.
The U.S. says the disclosures have damaged international diplomacy and put the safety of informants and foreign human rights activists at risk. WikiLeaks has dismissed the claims, but Washington has been trying to find a way to prosecute the group and its leader, 39-year-old Julian Assange, who is currently in England.