Barack Obama to host PM Lee Hsien Loong to state dinner at White House in August

US President Barack Obama (right) with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong prior to the Nuclear Security Summit working dinner at the White House in March 2016.
US President Barack Obama (right) with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong prior to the Nuclear Security Summit working dinner at the White House in March 2016. PHOTO: WHITE HOUSE

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama will host a state dinner for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the White House on Aug 2, marking the first time PM Lee has been honoured with such a function.

The White House announced the event on Wednesday (June 1), saying that the two leaders will celebrate the bilateral relationship between Singapore and US at the dinner. This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The White House went on to say that President Obama and PM Lee would highlight the growth in the relationship and also discuss how the ties between the two countries can “continue to address international challenges and advance a rules-based order for the Asia-Pacific”.

White House state dinners are typically glitzy affairs and reserved only for the US’ strongest allies. It is considered the highest diplomatic honour the White House can give. 

President Obama has so far hosted the leaders of only four Asian countries – China, Japan, South Korea and India.

They can cost anywhere from around US$200,000 (S$275,000) to over US$500,000.

In a Facebook post on Thursday (June 2), PM Lee said he had accepted President Obama's invitation to visit Washington DC in August, and was looking forward to the visit.

"It will mark the progress we have made, especially with this Administration. It will also be a chance to see how we can build on our friendship beyond the November US elections," PM Lee wrote.

Founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew attended at least three US state dinners, the last one hosted by then president Ronald Reagan in 1985.

Singapore's Ambassador to the US Ashok Mirpuri said that the country was very honoured by the President's invitation.

"This year marks 50 years of the bilateral relationship between Singapore and the United States and the Prime Minister's visit will build on our already strong ties and regional partnership," he said.