World

PM Lee's State visit: Banter at the White House

He attends state dinner hosted by President Obama

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong rounded off his first official visit to the United States with a state dinner at the White House on Tuesday.

It was a lavish black-tie affair hosted by US President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, and was attended by about 200 guests including actors Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys.

The state dinner was just the 12th such function in Mr Obama's eight years in office and the first for a South-east Asian nation.

It was part of the festivities to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the US.

GUEST: PM Lee Hsien Loong and President Barack Obama walking to the Oval Office at the White House. PHOTO: REUTERS

Here are some interesting quotes on Mr Lee's visit to the White House.

Mr Obama on rojak

"In the United States, we call ourselves a 'melting pot' of different races, religions and creeds. In Singapore, it is rojak - different parts united in a harmonious whole. We're bound by the belief that no matter who you are, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can make it."

Mr Lee's quip while announcing the orchid hybrid - Dendrobium Barack and Michelle Obama - named after the US President and his wife

"To mark the 50th anniversary of our relations, Singapore has named an orchid hybrid in honour of President and Mrs Obama. This is a hybrid of breeds native to Singapore and Hawaii, where the President was born - most of us believe."

Ever since he was elected, Mr Obama has been the target of conspiracy theories that he was not born in the US.

In his toast, Mr Obama jokes about Singapore's obsession with food

"We all know how seriously Singaporeans take their food.

"In Singapore, even the street vendors, the hawker stalls, earn Michelin stars, which created some pressure this evening. We were tempted to offer each of you a Singapore Sling or some chilli crab.

"However, for some of you who know its unmistakable scent that never goes away, you will understand why we will not serve any fruit known as durian."

Mr Obama on aunties and uncles

"Our Singaporean friends say that, 'A long road reveals the strength of your horse, a long time reveals the heart of your friends.'

"I first saw the heart of the people of Singapore as a young boy, during my years living in South-east Asia. We see it now in the proud Singaporean-Americans who enrich our nation and who join us today - including a lot of 'uncles' and 'aunties'."

Mr Obama on Mr Lee's coding skills, referring to the code Mr Lee shared on Facebook last year

"I understand that the Prime Minister himself recently wrote a program to solve Sudoku puzzles - which Michelle will want.

"Then the Foreign Minister stepped in and translated that program into JavaScript. So I've got to start asking (secretary of state) John Kerry to do that."

Mr Lee on how ties with the US would be affected by a more inward-looking new US leader

"Our experience of American presidential elections has been that… after the elections, in a calmer, cooler atmosphere, positions are rethought, strategies are nuanced, and a certain balance is kept in the direction of the ship of the state. It doesn't turn really upside down.

"The Americans take pride in having a system with checks and balances so that it's not so easy to do things, but it's not so easy to completely mess things up. And we admire that and sometimes we depend upon that."

GUEST: PM Lee Hsien Loong and President Barack Obama walking to the Oval Office at the White House. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mr Obama joked: "He's absolutely right."

Lee Hsien LoongBarack Obamaunited states