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A grand White House welcome for PM Lee

PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching and President Obama and his wife Michelle greeting the over 2,000 guests gathered to welcome the Singapore prime minister on his arrival at the White House on Tuesday morning.

Washington, DC

THE strains of Majulah Singapura filled the air in Washington, DC for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's official arrival at the White House on Tuesday morning.

Under the morning sunshine with more than 2,000 guests looking on, Mr Lee and his wife Ho Ching were greeted by US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on the South Lawn of the presidential mansion.

A simultaneous 19-gun salute was fired overhead during Singapore's national anthem. This was followed by the US anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.

Mr Obama then escorted Mr Lee to review the guard-of-honour, made up of the five branches of the US Armed Forces: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The flags of the 50 US states as well as those of the overseas US territories were held aloft during the review.

Singapore and the US are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations this year. Mr Lee said in a speech during the ceremony that Singapore's ties with the US have remained steadfast through nine different American presidents and three Singapore prime ministers.

"We will maintain these bipartisan links with whichever party (Republican or Democratic) wins the (presidential) election in November," he said, adding that the two sides would continue to build and deepen their economic and security relationships.

Earlier, Mr Obama began his remarks by greeting the crowd in each of Singapore's four official languages. He hailed the Lion City as a "solid rock partner" of the US, adding that his invitation to Mr Lee to make this official visit was a chance for the US leader to repay the warm hospitality he received during his one and only visit to Singapore back in 2009.

"Singapore is an anchor for (the US) presence in the region," said Mr Obama. "We stand together for a regional order where every nation, large and small, plays and trades by the same rules. We stand together to meet the threats of the 21st century - from terrorism to the spread of disease to climate change."

The two leaders later adjourned to the Oval Office for a private bilateral meeting. Mr Lee then went to the State Department for a state luncheon hosted in his honour by US Vice-President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Mr Lee and his delegation returned to the White House in the evening for a state dinner - the first time that Singapore has been given this distinguished honour since 1985.




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