Singapore vital to US interests in Asia, says K.T. McFarland, Trump's pick for next ambassador

US President Donald Trump's nominee for ambassador to Singapore K.T. McFarland testifies at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on her nomination on Capitol Hill in Washington, US on July 20, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump's nominee for the United States' next ambassador to Singapore, Ms Kathleen Troia McFarland, says that the island nation is vital to American interests in Asia.

"Singapore's value to the United States is more than just our bilateral relationship, strong as it may be," Ms McFarland, 65, said on Thursday (July 20) in a statement for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Ms McFarland said that despite its small size, Singapore sits astride one of the most geo-strategically important locations in the world. She dubbed the country the "economic gateway between East and West as one of the world's most important trade routes on the Malacca Straits" and the world's largest transshipment port.

"Singapore is also the security gateway between East and West as the entrance to the South China Sea," she added.

Ms McFarland said " the world's diplomatic chessboard is being rearranged", with economic growth increasingly coming from Asia, North Korea on the verge of becoming a nuclear weapons state and China flexing military muscle.

She also highlighted the threat posed by terrorists affiliated to the crumbling Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group moving back to the region.

"With each of these security issues, the strength of the US-Singapore relationship will be instrumental to our success," she said.

She highlighted the US' trade surplus of nearly US$20 billion (S$27.3 billion) and the 215,000 jobs supported by trade with Singapore, with US investment in the country totalling over US$180 billion.

She also noted the close security relationship between the countries, particularly the US-Singapore Memorandum of Understanding signed in the 1990s and follow-on agreements that have allowed US Poseidon P-8 aircraft to operate out of Singapore and Littoral Combat Ships to rotate out of Changi Naval Base.

Ms McFarland, a former deputy national security adviser who has also worked as a Fox News analyst, will replace the most recent US ambassador to Singapore, Florida attorney and Barack Obama fundraiser Kirk Wagar, who departed in January upon Mr Trump's inauguration.

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