U.S. President Barack Obama will host Singapore’s premier Lee Hsien Loong at the White House for an official visit and state dinner on August 2 as the two countries commemorate the 50th anniversary of their bilateral relationship, the White House announced Wednesday.
Though Singapore has long been one of the United States’ closest regional partners, ties have grown even closer under the Obama administration amid Washington’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, with the broadening and deepening of the strategic partnership in 2012 and the inking of a new defense pact last December (See: “US, Singapore Ink New Defense Pact”). Today, cooperation extends across the board from countering the Islamic State to the forging of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
The official visit and state dinner – the highest diplomatic honor the White House has for visiting foreign leaders – is a further acknowledgement of Singapore’s importance to the United States. Lee will be the first Southeast Asian leader to receive the honor under the Obama administration, with the last one then-being Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo back in 2003.
“The two leaders will celebrate the bilateral relationship between Singapore and the United States that has served as an anchor for the U.S. rebalance to Asia,” The White House said.
Following the news, Lee said on Facebook that he looked forward to the visit to both commemorate the history of ties as well as make further progress on the relationship.
“I look forward to the visit. It will mark the progress we have made, especially with this Administration. It will also be a chance to see how we can build on our friendship beyond the November U.S. elections,” he said.
This will be the first official visit to the United States by a Singaporean premier since the city-state’s late founding father Lee Kuan Yew’s trip in 1985, Singapore’s foreign ministry said in a statement. It will also be the fourth state dinner accorded to Singapore.