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Singapore’s prime minister-in-waiting Lawrence Wong does not believe that the U.S. or China want to enter into an armed conflict, but he is concerned that escalating tensions may lead to a dangerous situation.
In an interview with Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait, Wong observed that relations between the U.S. and China have grown “more strained” since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and have worsened since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent trip to Taiwan.
“Following the visit, tensions have gone up one notch,” Wong said. “And that’s the risk that can happen, that we’re starting to see a series of decisions being taken by both countries that will lead us to more dangerous territory.”
Pelosi stopped in Taiwan and met with officials during a multi-country tour of Asia that began in Singapore. In anticipation of this, China issued threats that Pelosi and the U.S. would face consequences should she go there, but Pelosi was undeterred.
Wong said that while no one wants an actual conflict, “we sleepwalk into conflict and that’s the biggest problem and danger.” He said that Taiwan is a “flashpoint,” and that “it can easily become very dangerous.”
With escalating tensions, Wong warned that should there be an accident or misunderstanding involving China and the U.S., it could become increasingly difficult to manage such a situation compared to how it was in the past.
Wong also admitted to being mistaken in the past when he believed that increased trade would be a way to solve geopolitical problems.
“I think now there is another logic at play, which is that geopolitics can undermine trade,” Wong said, “and we worry about that because this will lead us to a more divided and dangerous world.”
Pelosi was not the last U.S. official to go to Taiwan. A delegation led by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., arrived there on Sunday, with plans to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and others.