Tensions over Taiwan risk leading to a miscalculation between the US and China, as both countries step up activity around the nation, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) said on Wednesday night.
“We should be concerned,” Lee said in an interview. “I don’t think it’s going to war overnight, but it is in a situation where you can have a mishap or a miscalculation and be in a very delicate situation.”
Washington has significantly boosted engagement with Taipei, China has increasingly tested Taiwan’s air defenses and the government in Taipei has taken steps such as printing passports with the name “Taiwan” on them, Lee said at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum.
“All these moves raise suspicions and tensions and anxieties, and make it more likely that a mishap or miscalculation can happen,” he said, adding: “Everybody says the right thing, but if you look at what is happening it is not a static situation.”
Lee’s comments came shortly after US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) concluded their first face-to-face summit, agreeing to continue talking on a range of topics even as they continue to spar over issues such as Taiwan.
After reassuring Xi on Monday that the US does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty, a day later Biden described the nation as “independent” to reporters before quickly walking back the comment.
In a separate interview yesterday, Singaporean Minister of Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said that “the probability of an actual conflict is low” between China and Taiwan, adding that it is an issue everyone needs to be concerned with.
He said he hoped tensions could be lowered so there is sustained peace between them.
“The real risk is either an accident or a miscalculation,” Balakrishnan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “And the more there’s engagement, there’s talk, there’s discussion and there’s hopefully a meeting of minds. I think that lowers the risk considerably.”
Lee said it was good that Biden and Xi could meet and “speak frankly” with each other even though all problems would not be resolved in one meeting.
He said that in the US there is a consensus that Beijing is “a serious problem for them,” while many Chinese believe the US wants to slow them down and “stop their emergence.”
Lee also said that the US should keep moving forward on trade with Asia, even if it is politically unfeasible to re-enter the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11-nation trade deal that former US president Donald Trump exited.
The US would still have a role in the region even if China joined the agreement given its allies and investments, Lee added.
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