The leader of Singapore played down the possibility of a war breaking out soon over Taiwan, claiming China isn’t “trigger happy” about annexing the self-governing island it has long claimed as its own.
“They would like Taiwan to be part of ‘one China,’” but aren’t sure how to make it happen, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loongsaid Wednesday at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore. Unless Beijing is provoked, the world isn’t “going to wake up one day and find that they’ve decided to launch D-Day,” he added.
Referring to a brutal World War II battle between the US and Japan over another Pacific island, Lee said that “Attacking Taiwan is not like doing Iwo Jima, and Iwo Jima was bloody enough.”
Lee’s remarks regarding Taiwan highlighted a glimmer of hope regarding one of the main points of contention in US-China ties prior to Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden’s anticipated meeting in California next week, which will mark their first in-person meeting in nearly a year. Although those discussions are a good start, Lee said they won’t be able to address every issue in the relationship between the two largest economies in the world.
“You need a meeting to head in the right direction but you don’t expect a meeting to make everything sweetness and light or something,” Lee said in the interview with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait.
As the US-China relationship has worsened in recent years on a wide range of problems, including Taiwan, human rights, and access to advanced technology, Southeast Asian nations have grown increasingly apprehensive about the possibility of a conflict. Leaders have pleaded with all parties to refrain from allowing rivalry to sever vital supply lines and cause instability in the area.
Regarding a different hotspot in the region, Lee stated that Southeast Asian countries strive to moderate their reaction to Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea.
After Chinese ships and Philippine ships collided twice in close proximity to a Filipino military installation in Second Thomas Shoal, which both countries claim as their own, tensions in the waterway have increased.China continued, accusing the US, an ally of the Philippines under treaties, of inciting provocations by other states in the disputed sea area, over which Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and other countries have all made claims.
“Four Asean countries have claims in the South China Sea,” Lee said. “All of them want to work an arrangement out between themselves and with China, but at the same time all of them have other stakes with China.”