Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Asian nations may be forced to choose between China and the US. The announcement was made during the final day of the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. US Vice President Mike Pence attended the conference on behalf of the Trump administration.
Mr Lee said: “If you are friends with two countries which are on different sides, sometimes it is possible to get along with both, sometimes it’s more awkward when you try to get along with both.
“I think it’s very desirable for us not to have to take sides, but the circumstances may come when ASEAN may have to choose one or the other.
“I am hoping that it’s not coming soon.”
Singapore has been a member of ASEAN, alongside Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei and Laos, since its establishment in 1967.
Despite the nations maintaining significant ties with the US, they are also closely connected to Beijing.
But, many countries in Southeast Asia have their own issues with China.
Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are all in dispute with the superstate over their territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.
Controversially, Mr Pence said the US saw ASEAN as an “irreplaceable strategic partner”.
Republican firebrand Donald Trump has escalated trade tension with Beijing this year, hitting Beijing with tariffs on $250billion (£195billion) of Chinese imports.
China has responded with levies targeting $110billion of US goods.
Vice President Mike Pence confirmed the Trump administration would not budge on its position in the dispute.
US officials have warned China poses the most significant global threat to the US.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said: “I would tell you that China in many ways represents the broadest, most complicated, most long-term counterintelligence threat we face.
“China is fighting tomorrow’s fight, and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that.
“And it affects every sector of our economy, every state in the country, and just about every aspect of what we hold dear.”
China’s President Xi Jinping and Trump will meet in Argentina at the end of November to discuss ongoing trade tensions.
Mr Pence said: “They know what our administration’s position is.