S'pore continues to support US military presence in Asia as it's 'critical' to peace in region: PM Lee

The two countries share excellent defence ties.

Kayla Wong | March 29, 2022, 07:23 PM

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Singapore continues to share the belief that the U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific is "critical to the region's continued peace, stability and prosperity", Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a meeting with U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on Monday, Mar. 28.

Singapore & U.S. shares excellent defence ties

PM Lee, who's on a working visit from Mar. 26 to Apr. 2 in Washington D.C. and New York City, added: "Singapore continues to support the U.S. military presence in Asia".

Reaffirming the "excellent and longstanding bilateral defence ties" between the two countries, he mentioned as an example the renewal of the memorandum of understanding in 2019 regarding the U.S. use of facilities in Singapore, which was originally signed in 1990.

PM Lee further said he is "very pleased" that Singapore's status as a U.S. major security cooperation partner was reaffirmed in 2022.

He also said he hoped that both countries will be able to deepen their existing slate of cooperation and explore new areas of neutral interest, such as "joint training with F-35s or in the field of artificial intelligence".

Why Singapore has stuck to its guns on imposing sanctions on Russia

In addition, PM Lee also explained why Singapore had to take a strong stand in principle with regard to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying that for the city-state, the principle that "sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national borders should not be violated in contravention of the UN charter is fundamental and existential".

Singapore has imposed export controls on items that can be used as weapons in Ukraine -- a rare decision to take as the country typically doesn't do so without a binding Security Council direction, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said.

However, despite the implications on Singapore as a result of the sanctions on Russia, Singapore has stood by this position as it is crucial to defend the principle of sovereignty of smaller nations, which forms the foundation of its existence as an independent state, Vivian added.

Singapore is one of the U.S.' valued defence partners

In his welcome remarks, Austin said Singapore remains one of the U.S.' "most valued defence partners".

"(...) for decades you've provided steadfast friendship, counsel and cooperation, and our partnership is especially important in these turbulent times," he said.

Austin also said military cooperation between the two countries has "long helped to ensure security in the region", adding that "Singapore's support for U.S. forces is an anchor of America's presence in the Indo-Pacific".

"We greatly appreciate your support for our rotational P-8 deployments and the return of the LCS to Singapore," he said.

In addition, he said it's important to have U.S. forces training side-by-side with Singaporean troops. He added that the U.S. is "grateful to Singapore for being the second largest partner military training presence in the U.S."

There are around 1,000 military personnels and dependents from Singapore across the U.S., according to the White House.

Furthermore, Austin said the U.S. appreciates Singapore's "strong statements and actions opposing Russia's invasion of Ukraine".

Austin last visited Singapore in July last year in his inaugural visit to Singapore since he took office.

PM Lee will be meeting U.S. President Joe Biden as well, and besides reviewing progress on bilateral cooperation in areas such as cybersecurity and strengthening supply chains, the two leaders will be discussing Russia's war against Ukraine and their shared interest in elevating U.S.-Asean relations, according to the White House.

Thereafter, he will be meeting U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris

He is accompanied by Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, as well as Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo, according to the Prime Minister's Office.

Top image via Alex Wong/Getty Images

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