PM Lee's trip to the US is the first official visit by Singapore PM since 1985

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) meeting US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in Washington DC on April 2, 2013.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) meeting US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in Washington DC on April 2, 2013. PHOTO: ST FILE

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrives tomorrow in the US capital Washington for a six-day official visit that is a first by a Singapore prime minister since 1985.

The visit coincides with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries and underscores their close and longstanding partnership, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement yesterday.

US President Barack Obama will welcome Mr Lee at an official arrival ceremony at the White House South Lawn on Tuesday before their meeting in the Oval Office.

Later that day, Mr Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will host PM Lee and his wife to a state dinner, an honour accorded by the Obama administration to only 11 other occasions in eight years. Four of them were for Asian countries: India, China, South Korea and Japan.

During his stay, Mr Lee will meet several senior members of the United States government.

 
 
 
 

On Tuesday, at the State Department, Vice-President Joe Biden, his wife Jill and Secretary of State John Kerry will host a state luncheon for Mr and Mrs Lee.

Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter will host PM Lee to lunch on Monday, the day after his arrival, and there will be separate meetings between him and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director John Brennan.

The Prime Minister will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Monday. He will also speak at a reception jointly hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce and the US-Asean Business Council that day.

Earlier, on Sunday, he will meet Singaporeans at a National Day reception in the Singapore Embassy.

Mr Lee's visit provides an opportunity for both countries to renew and expand bilateral cooperation, the Prime Minister's Office said.

The Obama administration has made considerable effort in building ties with Asia in pursuit of its strategy to rebalance its military and diplomatic interests towards the region.

In February, a special Asean-US summit was held in California which Mr Lee attended. During his week-long working trip, he also met the chiefs of US technology giants such as Apple and Facebook.

But his upcoming official visit is special. It will be the fifth such visit by a Singapore prime minister. The previous four were made by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1967, 1973, 1975 and 1985.

Accompanying PM Lee next week are Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing, and Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.

Three MPs will also be in the delegation: Mr Christopher de Souza, Ms Rahayu Mahzam and Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong.

In Mr Lee's absence, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will be the Acting Prime Minister.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'First official visit to US by a S'pore PM since 1985'. Print Edition | Subscribe