Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said there was considerable risk of tensions between China and the United States becoming severe, and that while a military conflict was more likely than it was five years ago, the odds were not high.
Relations between the United States and China sank to their lowest point in decades under former US President Donald Trump's administration, with Beijing pushing for greater global influence in a challenge to traditional US leadership.
"It is more likely than it was five years ago, but I think the odds of a military clash are not yet high," Lee said in an interview with BBC that aired on Sunday.
"But the risk of severe tensions, which will raise the odds later on, I think that is considerable." The United States and China are sparring over influence in the Indo-Pacific region, Beijing's economic practices, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and human rights issues in China's Xinjiang region. President Joe Biden's administration has committed to reviewing elements of US policies toward China.
Top diplomats from both nations are set to meet in Alaska on March 18 in the first high-level, in-person contact between the two countries under the Biden administration.
Singapore has close ties with both countries, and the tiny but wealthy nation wields strong economic and political influence in the region.
Lee said it was not possible for Singapore to choose between the United States and China.
When asked about the risk of a military conflict, he said: "It could happen before you expect it, if there is a mishap. If the countries are careful, it will not happen."