Donald Trump accepts PM Lee's offer of Chinooks to help in relief effort; both leaders to meet in October

PM Lee and Donald Trump will meet at the White House in October, after meeting for the first time (above) on the sidelines of the Group of 20 Leaders' Summit in July 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - US President Donald Trump has accepted Singapore's offer of its Chinook helicopters based in Texas to assist in disaster relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the offer in a call to Mr Trump on Tuesday (Aug 29), during which both leaders said they looked forward to meeting in the White House in October.

PM Lee had called Mr Trump to express his concern and sympathies over the loss of life and damage in Texas and Louisiana.

He said Singapore was ready to assist in ongoing relief efforts by deploying the Republic of Singapore Air Force's CH-47 Chinook helicopters from its Peace Prairie detachment in Grand Prairie, Texas, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

President Trump thanked PM Lee and accepted his offer of help, it added.

The RSAF detachment in Grand Prairie was set up in 1995 to train Chinook crewmen and maintenance personnel.

In a statement that followed, the Ministry of Defence said it would deploy up to four RSAF CH-47 Chinook helicopters which will be able to airlift troops and evacuees, as well as transport supplies. "Prime Minister Lee said this was a small gesture to express our appreciation and gratitude to the US and in particular the State of Texas, which have been good hosts for our Peace Prairie detachment," Mindef said in the statement.

Four of its helicopters and 41 personnel had also assisted in a relief mission for Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in September 2005, during which they worked alongside the Texas Army National Guard.

On Tuesday, Mr Trump took PM Lee's call while on board Air Force One on his way to Texas for an update on the flooding crisis.

The White House said Mr Trump thanked PM Lee for Singapore's support for the USS John S. McCain search, rescue, and recovery efforts.

Both leaders also discussed North Korea's "continued and deliberate provocations, including the latest ballistic missile launch" which flew over Japan.

PM Lee said Singapore was deeply concerned and had issued a statement condemning this reckless action. "We strongly urge North Korea to cease all provocations immediately, and reiterate our long-standing call for North Korea to abide by its international obligations and commitments," he added in a Facebook post.

His upcoming meeting with Mr Trump comes after they met at the Group of 20 Leaders' Summit in Hamburg in July. At that meeting, Mr Trump said that he looked forward to receiving PM Lee in Washington DC later this year.

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