Asean Summit

Singapore-US ties 'very, very strong': Obama

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and US President Barack Obama in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Mr Obama said that around the world, "people admire the incredible progress Singapore has made in creating prosperity and opportunity for its people and for being
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and US President Barack Obama in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. Mr Obama said that around the world, "people admire the incredible progress Singapore has made in creating prosperity and opportunity for its people and for being an excellent international partner".PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

KUALA LUMPUR • Trade, security, climate change and continued engagement by the United States in the region were among the wide range of issues discussed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and US President Barack Obama when they met on the sidelines of the Asean Summit here.

Mr Obama described the state of bilateral relations as being "very, very strong" and said that around the world, "people admire the incredible progress Singapore has made in creating prosperity and opportunity for its people and for being an excellent international partner".

Speaking to reporters after their talks yesterday, he added: "Although Singapore does not have a large population, it punches above its weight because of its wise policies and ability to work with all countries."

The issues they covered included work that needs to be done together to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and to improve counter-terrorism and intelligence efforts, he said.

Mr Obama also noted that the US and Singapore were two of the countries that helped to get the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact over the finish line. Both leaders were "excited about prospects for the creation of jobs and new businesses and new opportunity in both our countries".

He thanked Mr Lee for the excellent bilateral cooperation and said he looked forward to building on it.

Mr Obama said one of his goals has been to show consistent US engagement in the region, "and it's made much easier when we know we've got outstanding partners like Singapore".

In his remarks, Mr Lee said countries in the region all appreciated US engagement and participation, its contributions economically, on security issues and in terms of the overall strategic balance.

"And what matters most to the countries is to know that this will be maintained," he said, noting that Mr Obama visited the region six times for Asean meetings.

"This is greatly appreciated and it's important to know that this will continue beyond November 2016," he added, referring to the next US presidential election.

"Whoever wins the next election, America has interests in this region, which are enduring and which are worthy of attention and focus to advance them and to continue to be a constructive and strategic player in Asia for many years to come," Mr Lee said.

Mr Lee yesterday also met Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who noted increased trade between the two countries, and expanding economic activities by companies, said Mr Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin.

Both leaders look forward to advancing cooperation. They also discussed topics including opportunities for future cooperation and efforts to counter terrorism.

Lim Yan Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2015, with the headline 'Singapore-US ties 'very, very strong': Obama'. Print Edition | Subscribe