President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hailed the 50 years of diplomatic ties between their two countries at the White House yesterday (Aug 2), highlighting the many ways the two sides contribute to each other and the common values they share.
In brief remarks during a grand welcome ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Mr Obama called Mr Lee and Singapore "solid-rock partners".
"Today, our friendship and shared interests bring us together in common pursuit of a common vision - a peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific and a more secure world," he said. "As the United States has rebalanced our foreign policy to the Asia-Pacific, Singapore - and Prime Minister Lee, in particular - have been solid- rock partners."
He also reiterated remarks he made in an interview with The Straits Times where he referred to Singapore as an "anchor" for US presence in the region.
The President littered his speech with Singaporean-isms, referring to "rojak" when talking about Singapore's multicultural society and "uncles and aunties" when addressing some 2,000 people gathered for the ceremony.
"In the United States, we call ourselves a 'melting pot' of different races, religions and creeds. In Singapore, it is rojak - different parts united in a harmonious whole," said Mr Obama. "We're bound by the belief that no matter who you are, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can make it."
In his remarks, PM Lee talked about how far ties have come in
the decades since founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew first visited the US in 1967, as well as the US' role in Asia's development.
Said PM Lee: "Almost 50 years later, the world has completely changed. The Cold War is long over, and the threat of communism has disappeared. Asia is at peace, though tensions are not entirely absent... America's endurance, policies and actions have contributed greatly to this current peace and prosperity."
He also noted that the strong ties have withstood many political changes. "Singapore's own ties with the United States have remained steadfast through nine US presidents - five Republican and four Democratic - and three Singapore prime ministers," he said. "We will maintain these bipartisan links with whichever party wins the elections in November."
As he has done on previous visits to the US, PM Lee stressed the importance of the US being engaged in Asia. He also reiterated calls he made on Monday to US industry and business leaders for the US to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact.
"I know that America has many preoccupations, both at home and abroad. Some Americans are anxious and frustrated with economic uncertainty and the uneven results of globalisation, trade and foreign engagement. But the US has many interests, investments and friends in the region. These strengthen the United States. Singapore fervently hopes that the US will stay engaged and maintain its indispensable role in the Asia-Pacific," he said.
The TPP dominated the joint press conference following the two leaders' meeting in the Oval Office. Mr Obama reiterated his support for it and Mr Lee thanked the President for continuing to support it.
Asked how he intends to push it through as the presidential nominees oppose it, Mr Obama quipped: "Right now, I'm president and I think I have the better argument."
In a joint statement with Mr Obama, PM Lee said Singapore will step up its contribution to the fight against terror in Iraq by sending a Singapore Armed Forces medical support team to the country.
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