Singapore's prime minister has raised the alarm about escalating tensions between the United States and China, stressing that Washington's hardline views toward Beijing could result in a confrontation that would be "disastrous" for both sides and the world.
Lee Hsien Loong made the comment at the Aspen Security Forum via video link on Tuesday, saying the United States had moved from an approach of healthy competition with China to the view that America "must win one way or another."
"There is US bipartisan consensus today on one thing, which is relations with China. But their stance is to take a hard line and I'm not sure that is the right consensus," Lee told the forum.
"I don't know whether Americans realize what a formidable adversary they would be taking on if they decide that China is an enemy. In this situation, I would say to both, pause, think carefully before you fast-forward, it's very dangerous," he added.
The Singaporean prime minister said, "It's vital for the US and China to strive to engage each other to head off a clash, which would be disastrous for both sides, and the world."
Lee called on the US and China to deescalate their tensions and said both powers presumed incorrectly they would win in any conflict.
"The reality is, neither side can put the other one down," he said. "I think that is a possible misunderstanding on both sides."
Lee urged the administration of US President Joe Biden to return to a "more conventional" foreign policy with China and discard the aggressive and disruptive approach of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Last week, Beijing called on Washington to put aside its "misguided mindset and dangerous policy" of viewing China as an "imaginary enemy," which has led to a stalemate in relations between the world's two largest economies.
The rivalry between the US and China has intensified in recent years with Beijing's growing international clout and rapid economic progress emerging as a viable counter-weight to the US.
China hoped for an improvement in relations under Biden, who succeeded Trump in January, but the new administration has shown no sign of backing down on hardline policies toward China.
The two sides are at odds over a range of issues, including alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the disputed territories in the South China Sea, cyberattacks, and the coronavirus pandemic.