CHINA and the US must work to ease tensions or else “everything is to be lost”, warns Singapore’s Prime Minister.
PUBLISHED: 01:17, Fri, May 21, 2021 | UPDATED: 09:43, Fri, May 21, 2021
Lee Hsien Loong, leader of Singapore, warned a military conflict between both Beijing and Washington could spell disaster for the world. Beijing and Washington have been at loggerheads over trade disputes, alleged human rights abuses, the coronavirus pandemic and aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea. Speaking at the inaugural Global Forum on Economic Recovery, Mr Lee urged the US and China to find ground to cooperate on as “everything is at stake” in a conflict. He added: “If the US-China relationship goes sour, you are going to have a state of tension – anxiety at the very least and conflict possibly – all over the world.
“Certainly, all over the Asia-Pacific, or as now America prefers to call it, the Indo-Pacific. And that is going to be bad, not just for other countries big and small, but for both America and China too. “Because both America and China are countries with enormous economic and technological power, with high tech capabilities, weaponry, nuclear capabilities; and modernised armed forces in the case of the PLA, and the most powerful armed forces in the world, in the case of the US Armed Forces, but not so powerful that when you [i.e. the US] go to war, that you do not take casualties, and expect to absorb a lot of damage. “So, if the two countries clash, everything is to be lost.”
Mr Lee then told the forum the US and China must find ground to cooperate on, if they are not willing to form a relationship and ease tensions. The Prime Minister said “climate change is one, where [US and China] are talking”, but stressed environmentalism is not enough.
He added: “The two countries have to work together, but it means that both countries have to reconcile their international stances with their domestic political opinions. “ And both have domestic political opinions, even the Chinese. And [both countries will have to] overcome the nationalist instinct to say ’we will look after our country’s interests, but we will do so by cooperating with other countries.’ “‘Whether or not we fully trust them, and whether or not they are our bosom friends, they have to be our partners on this planet.’”
US President Joe Biden previously expressed a desire to work with Chinese President Xi Jinping on issues such as climate change and global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
But Mr Biden also recently called out both Beijing and Vladimir Putin’s Russia for “disruptive actions”, and vowed to take an “active role” in disputed regions like the South China Sea.
Speaking to the United States Coast Guard Academy’s 2021 graduating class, the President said: “When nations try to game the system or tip the rules in their favour, it throws everything off balance.
“That’s why we are so adamant that these areas of the world that are the arteries of trade and shipping remain peaceful, whether that’s the South China Sea, the Arabian Gulf, and, increasingly, the Arctic.
“It’s a vital interest to America’s foreign policy: secure, unimpeded flow of global commerce.
“It won’t happen without us taking an active role to set the norms of conduct to shape them around democratic values, not those of autocrats.”
President Xi also recently criticised the US “hegemony” on global affairs in a veiled attack on Mr Biden, saying countries like America “shouldn’t impose their rules on others”.
He said at the Boao Forum on Asia last month: “What we need in today’s world is justice, not hegemony.
“Bossing others around or meddling in others’ internal affairs will not get one any support.
“Big countries should behave in a manner befitting to their status and with a greater sense of responsibility.”
In a statement, the Chinese military’s Southern Theatre Command said the US action violated China’s sovereignty and undermined regional peace and stability.
The US Navy’s 7th Fleet rebuffed China’s claims, and said in response: “USS Curtis Wilbur was not ‘expelled’ from any nation’s territory.
“USS Curtis Wilbur conducted this Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in accordance with international law and then continued on to conduct normal operations in international waters.”