When asked about his assessment of tensions on both sides, Dr Balakrishnan said that the US and China are not looking for conflict, but for political reasons, both sides have had to take a stance.
Stressing that everyone has a stake in the global integrated economic system, Dr Balakrishnan said: “I know you have to compete, maybe confront but we all have skin in this game and we do want America and China to get along.
“My own personal observation is (that) they are not looking for conflict but I have to tell all Singaporeans right now, this is a dangerous, dangerous moment for the whole world.”
Dr Balakrishnan met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the ASEAN meeting on Friday.
They discussed regional and global issues, including US-China relations and recent developments in the Taiwan Strait, according to a press statement by Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
Dr Balakrishnan also emphasised the need to avoid miscalculation and accidents, which could lead to an escalatory spiral and destabilise the region.
“He encouraged greater engagement by the senior leadership and dialogue by all sides to build strategic trust,” said MFA.
Turning to the situation in Myanmar, Dr Balakrishnan said the situation is “very dire”, expressing concern that the country is sliding into civil war.
“There’s been no progress on our five-point consensus. In fact, the timing of the recent executions or even the earlier bombing … so soon after Prime Minister Hun Sen visits Myanmar … reflects a high level of cynicism or even outright disrespect for the role of ASEAN,” he said.
“The point is, we can’t interfere but if they do not see that there is value in dialogue, national reconciliation and making use of ASEAN’s good officers, then I’m afraid it’s a very dire situation,” he added.
“How long will this go on for? I have heard estimates between four years and 20 years. I don’t know but I’m pessimistic.”
In a joint statement published on Friday, ASEAN ministers said they are “deeply disappointed” by the limited progress and lack of commitment by the Myanmar military authorities in implementing the five point peace plan.
“We extensively discussed the recent developments in Myanmar and expressed our concerns over the prolonged political crisis … including the execution of four opposition activists,” the statement added.