Singapore and the United States yesterday pledged to keep up their close defence and security cooperation that has helped trade flow in vital sea lanes and shored up the Korean peace process.
"The US plays an important and constructive role in our region, and hence Singapore hopes to continue developing our ties with the US as well as strengthen the Asean-US relationship," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said as he spoke to the media after hour-long talks with US Vice-President Mike Pence, including a delegation breakfast.
"Already, on security, we are close partners. Singapore is the US' major security cooperation partner. I think we are the only country with this designation," he said.
Under the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement, the US recognised Singapore as a Major Security Cooperation Partner, and the 2015 enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement provided for non-conventional security cooperation in areas such as cyber defence.
Mr Pence, in his remarks, turned to what has been President Donald Trump's signature foreign policy achievement - a turnaround in Washington's testy ties with Pyongyang over the past six months.
"It is remarkable to think of a year and a half ago, where nuclear tests were taking place, missiles were flying over Japan, there were threats and provocations against our nation and nations in the region. And today, no more missiles are flying. No more nuclear tests. Our hostages have come home. And North Korea has begun anew to return fallen American heroes from the Korean War to our soil."
Thanking Singapore for hosting the path-breaking summit in June, he said: "Singapore's willingness to host the historic summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim (Jong Un) this past June, on fairly short notice, proved once again that history happens here in Singapore."
The US plays an important and constructive role in our region, and hence Singapore hopes to continue developing our ties with the US as well as strengthen the Asean-US relationship.
PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, on the importance of the US presence in the region.
He added: "Your leadership, and the leadership and support of nations across this region, has been instrumental to advancing the progress that we have achieved."
He also urged that pressure be kept up on North Korea to deliver on its promises.
Noting that the US is planning for a second summit, he said: "We remain determined to have the commitments of the Singapore declaration fulfilled."
Mr Pence also welcomed the efforts under way by Asean to manage differences on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
"The US encourages Asean to continue to move forward to a meaningful and binding code of conduct," he said. "The countries of this region, including Singapore, must be able to explore and develop their own resources, navigate their own waters and establish partnerships of their own choosing. And that includes in the South China Sea," he added.
"The South China Sea does not belong to any one nation," he said, add-ing that the US will continue to sail and fly where international law allows and its interests are advanced.
Mr Pence's visit is the latest in a series of high-level bilateral engagements this year.
"I look forward to seeing Vice-President Pence again next year when I hope to visit the United States," PM Lee said.