Terror threat and N. Korea feature in PM-McMaster talks

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and United States National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster at their meeting on Tuesday in Washington. Also present at the talks were (from right) Singapore's Ambassador to the US Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Minister for Educati
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and United States National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster at their meeting on Tuesday in Washington. Also present at the talks were (from right) Singapore's Ambassador to the US Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

They also agree on importance of US staying committed to deeper Asia-Pacific engagement

The threats of terrorism and North Korea's nuclear programme were on the agenda when United States National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday.

"Both sides exchanged views on the threat of terrorism in the region and expressed concern about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's continued development of its illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programmes," the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said, referring to North Korea by its official name.

"They also agreed on the importance of the US' continued commitment towards deepening its engagement of the Asia-Pacific."

Both security issues had featured prominently when PM Lee and President Donald Trump met at the White House a day earlier.

Highlights of Monday's meeting, which Cabinet members from both countries attended, were released by the White House and the PMO in a joint statement on Tuesday.

The leaders affirmed the strong and enduring bilateral partnership based on mutually beneficial cooperation in the areas of defence, security and the economy.

"They both recognised Singapore's steadfast partnership on issues of mutual interest and shared principles," the statement added.

"Singapore has been an anchor for the presence of the United States in the Indo-Pacific, underpinning regional peace and prosperity for the common benefit of the region and the United States."

The leaders pledged to strengthen cooperation to counter the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and Mr Trump welcomed Singapore's commitment to extend its existing contributions to the global coalition to defeat it - a medical team, a KC-135R tanker and an imagery analysis team. PM Lee had said on Monday that Singapore would extend its deployment into next year.

On North Korea, both leaders condemned its "unlawful" missile launches and nuclear tests, which are in clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

They also reaffirmed their commitment to fully implement the resolutions and "consider additional measures to compel the regime to engage in meaningful dialogue".

Pyongyang's provocations have drawn a strong response from Mr Trump, and will be a key theme of his visit to Asia next month.

On economic ties, both leaders said the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement had successfully expanded trade, enhanced prosperity and promoted broader relations for the benefit of both countries.

Beyond close defence ties that include rotational deployments and training, Singapore has also signed more than US$5.8 billion (S$7.9 billion) worth of defence contracts with US companies in the past three years.

Both countries also aim to sign tax agreements on information exchange and compliance this year.

The statement also touched on developments in the South China Sea.

Both sides reaffirmed the importance of safeguarding peace and stability, freedom of navigation and overflight, and the peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes under international law.

They also reiterated their support for the swift conclusion of an effective and binding Code of Conduct.

Turning to the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state and the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, both leaders urged the Myanmar government to end the violence, ensure "the safe, voluntary and dignified repatriation, resettlement, and rehabilitation" of those displaced, and implement in the shortest time possible the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

They also expressed their support for Asean's role in working with the Myanmar government to provide humanitarian assistance.

Also, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to Asean centrality and strengthening the regional architecture to address transnational challenges such as maritime and cyber security, and violent extremism.

The statement added: "President Trump looks forward to attending the November multilateral summits in South-east Asia and offered his full support for Singapore's Asean chairmanship in 2018."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 26, 2017, with the headline 'Terror threat and N. Korea feature in PM-McMaster talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe