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PM Lee, Biden reaffirm strong bilateral ties

They also discussed the 'destabilising behaviour' of China
Friday, June 27, 2014 - 06:00

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong's last order of business in Washington was to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the address of the American capital's most famous building.

In the White House on Wednesday (Thursday morning, Singapore time), he had separate meetings with United States Vice-President Joe Biden and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

President Barack Obama, who welcomed Mr Lee to the White House in April last year, dropped by during the meeting with Ms Rice.

The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement issued shortly after the closed-door meetings that Mr Lee welcomed both Mr Obama's and Mr Biden's "strong commitment" to the US rebalancing towards Asia.

Mr Biden, meeting Mr Lee for the third time in just over a year, highlighted his country's efforts to deepen the engagement with Asia on the political, security and economic fronts.

They noted how the Singapore-US Third Country Training Programme had been useful in supporting US regional engagement efforts.

A separate statement by the White House said the two leaders recognised the importance of the strategic and economic partnership between the US and Singapore. Mr Biden thanked Mr Lee for Singapore's leadership in "shaping a more peaceful and prosperous South-east Asia".

The issue of China's "destabilising behaviour" in the South China Sea was also raised.

China has laid claim to most of the South China Sea, including the waters approaching its neighbours' coastlines, and has been increasingly assertive in staking its claims.

Mr Lee and Mr Biden reiterated their mutual interest in international law, freedom of navigation, and the peaceful resolution of maritime and territorial disputes.

They also spent time discussing the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which are now in the final stages and look set to be wrapped up later this year.

They agreed on the importance of successfully concluding the talks in order to achieve an "ambitious, high-standard deal" as soon as possible.

Mr Obama was quoted as saying last week that he hoped to have an agreement on framing the TPP pact by the time he visits Asia again this November.

During Mr Lee's meeting with Ms Rice, they took stock of the strong bilateral relations between their two countries, which extend to the regional and multilateral level.

They also discussed ways in which US engagement of Asia could be enhanced, including through the TPP.

Separately, Mr Lee was hosted to tea by Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, together with various Democrat and Republican senators.

He also met two US lawmakers from the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces to discuss regional strategic and security issues.

With the Washington leg of his trip complete, the prime minister and his delegation boarded the Acela Express - Amtrak's high-speed rail service along the north-east corridor of the US - for a three-hour journey to New York City.

This train, one of the fastest in the Americas, can reach a top speed of about 240 kmh.

Mr Lee will spend a little over a day in the most populous city in the US before returning home. Besides meetings with business and industry leaders, his itinerary includes gracing a ceremony to officially launch Temasek Holdings' new office in the midtown Manhattan business district.

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