White House state dinner for PM 'signals close ties'

US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar (left) with Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang during a celebration at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre to mark the 240th anniversary of US Independence Day, which falls on July 4.
US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar (left) with Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang during a celebration at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre to mark the 240th anniversary of US Independence Day, which falls on July 4. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Strategic relations between S'pore, US based on military cooperation: US Ambassador

The state dinner that US President Barack Obama will host for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in August is a clear signal to Singapore and the world of the friendship and respect between both countries, said US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar yesterday. Singapore is one of the United States' strongest partners in the region, and is its platform to engage Asia, he added.

Mr Wagar made these remarks at a celebration held at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre to mark the 240th anniversary of US Independence Day, which falls on July 4. The occasion also marked 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the US.

Citing PM Lee's two visits to the US this year, and trips made by top government leaders of both sides, Mr Wagar said they demonstrate the close working partnership between the two countries.

"But a state dinner shows something else," he said of the White House dinner on August 2.

The last official visit to the US by a Singapore prime minister was by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 1985.

The strategic relationship between Singapore and US is founded on robust military-to-military cooperation, said Mr Wagar.

"America's network of alliances and security partnerships has been the bedrock of South-east Asia's peace and security and prosperity. Singapore is our strong partner in this network," he said. Despite the "heightened rhetoric", he said the US belief that all men and women are created equal has not changed.

"Certainly not because of one hateful act in Orlando, or one election campaign," said Mr Wagar, referring to a Florida club shooting that killed 49 people, and the controversial remarks about Muslims and Mexicans made by Mr Donald Trump, who is set to be the Republican nominee for the US presidential election.

One highlight of the celebration was when Ms Rohini Prabhaka, a 16-year-old student of Singapore American School, sang an a capella version of Majulah Singapura and Star-Spangled Banner, to loud applause from the 2,000 guests.

Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang said Singapore has always valued America's unique role in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

It was the reason Singapore signed agreements in 1990 and 2005 that facilitated the continued military presence of the US in the region, and deepened their security cooperation, he said. These pacts were updated last year with the signing of the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement to include partnership in new areas, such as humanitarian aid and cybersecurity.

Turning to economic cooperation, he said their free trade pact is an anchor for these ties.

He also said the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, involving 12 nations, including Singapore and the US, would further boost cooperation and signal US commitment to and confidence in the region.

"It will anchor the United States in the region, and allow it to continue playing a key role in Singapore's growth story," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2016, with the headline 'White House state dinner for PM 'signals close ties''. Print Edition | Subscribe