The Straits Times says

Safeguarding US-Singapore ties

Those who followed the state dinner for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the White House hosted by President Barack Obama would have noted their remarkable familiarity and ease in each other's company that underscores the character of the bilateral relationship. Now in its 51st year, these ties have stood the test of time, and are poised to strengthen. The US is the top investor in Singapore and the free trade agreement it signed with the Republic is a golden template from which emerged the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.

The security relationship is another key plank. After the US was ordered out of the Philippines in 1992, its warships, including front-line littoral combat ships, have found safe harbour in the city-state. In turn, Singapore's air force could soon be able to access Guam in the western Pacific as a training centre. A host of new initiatives are afoot, from cyber security to sharing information on financial flows. All told, there is substantial greening of the bilateral relationship. Little wonder that Mr Obama lavished praise on Singapore, describing it as often "the adult in the room, the level head" and a "central pillar" of US foreign policy.

Singapore-US ties did not arrive in their current position in a day. In the 60s, Mr Lee Kuan Yew travelled to Washington, not like post-colonial leaders who sought grant money, but to ask the US to build a strong trade relationship with his nation, and to urge more strategic involvement in South-east Asia. Singapore opened its doors to foreign investment, technology and talent. The results are plain for all to see. Today, 3,700 American companies alone have offices or regional headquarters on the island.

If Singapore stands shoulder to shoulder with America it's because it is also known for firm principles, and not just in its international relations. The eviction in 1988 of a US diplomat for interfering in local politics and the caning in 1994 of an American teenage vandal were telling punctuation marks on the road to mutual discovery.

What next? Given the current state of US politics, it is a fair point to ponder whether Mr Obama's policies will survive his term. The biggest worry is the TPP, the economic plank of the US strategic rebalance to Asia. Without meddling in US domestic politics, which is seeing the two presidential candidates both opposed to TPP, Mr Lee made clear to the US why he thought it should last the course and ratify the deal.

The year when a shutdown in Washington led the US President to miss several key meetings in Asia was bad enough. The world cannot afford an American president who neglects Asia for a full term. That would leave the field open to those who believe Asia must be left to Asians - a narrow view that the continent can ill afford.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2016, with the headline 'Safeguarding US-Singapore ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe