US-China ties face difficult issues, important to manage differences peacefully: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he hopes the US and China will be able to manage their differences peacefully. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK - The United States and China have a fraught relationship, with challenges lying in the way of them working through their difficult issues, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (April 1).

But he hopes that they will be able to talk about and manage their differences peacefully, so that countries in the Asia-Pacific can continue to prosper.

PM Lee, who spoke to Singapore reporters on Friday at the end of his working visit to the US, said that Washington is thinking ahead about how to manage the Ukraine crisis, particularly in relation to its relationship with Beijing.

The war in Ukraine will affect their ties, said PM Lee, but added that he believed neither would want the relationship to worsen over Ukraine.

"The issues are difficult. The communication channels, I think they exist, but I am not sure whether they are up to the very demanding subjects which need to be discussed," he said of the US-China relationship.

PM Lee also gave his take on the direction the US, which he last visited in September 2019, appears to be headed.

"There is a certain continuity in basic attitudes in the US administration, in the House, in Congress, as well as in the population, because mutual trust and confidence is lacking, and that is a very difficult problem to overcome. But it is something which they are very seized with," he said.

"I hope that it will be possible to make things gradually turn in the right direction."

The Prime Minister also said he doubted the war in Ukraine would be the last such conflict.

The Asia-Pacific region has had 50 years of peace in which the region's countries could develop, cooperate and compete peacefully, but whether it will have 50 years more of such peaceful coexistence is hard to say, he added.

"We can't think that it happens naturally," he said, making the case for the importance of an international framework in which every country can survive, develop, compete and work together.

A very important factor is the US-China relationship and whether the superpowers can manage their differences peacefully, said PM Lee.

The ability to talk frankly about some of their differences would enable them to maintain long-term and stable bilateral ties, so that the world - and the Asia-Pacific region especially - can benefit and take care of its own livelihood and future, he added.

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