World

PM Lee, Obama hail solid ties

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was given a rousing welcome to the White House in Washington yesterday.

Mr Lee and his wife, Ms Ho Ching, were greeted by US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as they stepped out of the car.

A military band played Majulah Singapura and a 19-gun salute went off, with Mr Lee and Mr Obama standing together on stage. The Star-Spangled Banner followed, and the two leaders inspected a guard of honour.

They then interacted with the crowd who had gathered on the White House lawn. Mr Lee snapped photos and told one Singaporean: "You must wave your flag!"

In his speech, Mr Obama delivered greetings in Singapore's four official languages, and quipped that Washington was experiencing some "Singapore weather".

Singapore and Mr Lee have been "solid rock partners", Mr Obama said. "Singapore is an anchor of our presence in the region."

He described the US and Singapore as societies built on multiculturalism and merit.

Mr Lee, in his speech, said it was an honour for Singapore to be welcomed this way. He spoke about how the US has contributed greatly to peace and prosperity in Asia.

He urged the US to stay engaged in the region, even though some Americans were anxious and frustrated with economic uncertainty and the uneven results of globalisation, trade and foreign engagement.

Calling on the US Congress to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership soon, he said it would not only benefit American workers and businesses, but send "a clear and vital signal" that the US will continue to lead in the Asia-Pacific, and enhance "the partnerships that link our destinies together".

Mr Lee, who is on a six-day visit to the US, earlier enjoyed a taste of home at the Singapore Embassy in Washington. He joined more than 500 US-based Singaporeans in an early National Day celebration on Sunday. Guests tucked into Singapore dishes like chicken rice and mee siam.

On Monday, he had talks with US Defence Secretary Ash Carter at the Pentagon.

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