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Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the 'excellent and longstanding' bilateral defence ties are key elements to the strong partnership between the two countries. — Reuters pic
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the ‘excellent and longstanding’ bilateral defence ties are key elements to the strong partnership between the two countries. — Reuters pic

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WASHINGTON, March 29 — Singapore continues to support the United States’ military presence in Asia as its presence in the Asia Pacific is “critical to the region’s continued peace, stability and prosperity”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin yesterday.

Speaking at the start of their meeting at the Pentagon, Lee said the “excellent and longstanding” bilateral defence ties are key elements to the strong partnership between the two countries.

“In the face of tough global challenges over the years, our two countries have continued to work closely together. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, our air and naval bases, as well as our ports remained open to port calls, transit, maintenance and repair operations,” said Lee.

Singapore also took a strong stand on principles when the conflict in Ukraine broke out, he added.

Lee said: “The principle that sovereignty, territorial integrity and national borders should not be violated in contravention of the United Nations Charter, is fundamental and existential.”

Welcoming the Singapore delegation to the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defence, Austin said the US “deeply appreciates” Singapore’s strong statements and actions opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, referring to the Republic’s decision to impose unilateral sanctions on Russia.

“(Russia) has greatly underestimated the world’s resolve to impose costs… for its unprovoked aggression,” said Austin.

Singapore’s status as a major security cooperation partner of the US was also acknowledged by both sides at the meeting.

Calling Singapore one of the US’ most valued defence partners, Austin said the military cooperation between the two countries has long helped to ensure security in the region, and Singapore’s support for US forces is an “anchor of America’s presence” in the Indo-Pacific region.

In his remarks, Lee said it is important for Singapore and the US to continue working together to jointly face present and future challenges.

“I hope from our conversations, we will be able to deepen the existing slate of cooperation, and explore new areas of mutual interest,” said Lee, who was flanked at the meeting by Communications and Information Minister Josephine Teo, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Singapore’s ambassador to the US Ashok Mirpuri.

Lee’s press secretary Chang Li Lin said both countries discussed expanding defence cooperation in areas such as “cyber, artificial intelligence and joint training” during the meeting, and agreed on the importance of the sustained engagement by the US in the region.

The Singapore delegation is in the US on a working visit until April 2, during which Lee will meet US President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, as well as other senior US officials.

Besides Austin, Lee also met US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington.

They discussed the growing economic and financial cooperation between the two countries and exchanged views on domestic responses to facilitate pandemic recovery and exchanged views on regional and international issues, including the developments in Ukraine, said Chang.

Lee and Yellen also discussed cooperation at international fora to deal with emerging challenges affecting the global financial system, she added. — TODAY

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