Singapore hopes US can stabilise its ties with China: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that he hope the US will stabilise its ties with China as Asia depends on a stable relationship between the world’s two biggest economies to have a secure and predictable environment to prosper.

Lee, who was re-elected prime minister, was speaking at a virtual dialogue organised by the Atlantic Council, an American think-tank, on Tuesday.

“If you (US) can establish a stable, predictable policy with bipartisan consensus (with China), I think it would be a great help to all your friends and partners who want to be able to depend on you and to rely on you, without the risk that one day the big power may suddenly decide its interests lie elsewhere,” the Straits Times quoted Lee as saying.

The US and China are at loggerheads over several issues, including the coronavirus and Beijing’s implementation of a controversial security law for Hong Kong.

The Trump administration blames China for not warning the world of the coronavirus pandemic earlier and hiding the extent of its outbreak. Beijing has rejected the allegations.

Lee said the current state of the US-China relations is an “unfortunate situation” where the countries have taken actions and counter-actions and the issues have “metastasised and spread into all fields of the relationship”.

“The way things have developed over the last several years, you have very many areas where there’s not only contradiction, but also deep distrust…it’s not just any bilateral relationship, it’s the most important bilateral relationship in the world – between a very powerful United States of America, and between a country with one-quarter of humanity. And I don’t think that is a collision which should be lightly ventured,” he said.

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Replying to a query on if he expects US-China relations to improve after the November 3 presidential election in the United States, Lee said, “We hope so.”

Former vice president Joe Biden, who is set to be formally nominated by the Democratic Party in August, will challenge the incumbent President Donald Trump, a Republican, in the upcoming US elections.

Lee said he would encourage the next President, be it Trump or his rival Biden, to develop a bipartisan consensus on US-Asian relations so that American foreign policy would last beyond the current administration.

Lee said historically in presidential election years, the US-China relationship always gets entangled in the poll campaign and “after that, after some time…things settle down”.

However, this time, the prime minister said he is not sure if it would happen. “Because the field is quite different, and the degree of animus, and sad to say, bipartisan consensus on treating China as a threat is quite extraordinary. And I fear that it may carry on past the election and if it does, I think that bodes ill for the world,” he was quoted as saying by the Channel News Asia.



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