Transcript of PM Lee Hsien Loong’s remarks at the joint press conference with US President Joe Biden on 29 March 2022. PM Lee was on a working visit to the US from 26 March to 2 April 2022.
Please scroll down for the transcript of QnA at the Joint Press Conference.
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Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to thank the President for the very warm welcome that I and my delegation have received. We last met in Rome on the sidelines of the G20 Summit.
But much has changed since those few months ago. Current international uncertainties and crises underscore the need for countries to work together with close friends and partners, and Singapore deeply appreciates the United States’ commitment to engage Southeast Asia and especially Singapore, despite the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
We had a very good discussion with President Biden this morning. We reaffirmed the longstanding and multi-faceted partnership between Singapore and the US, and our shared commitment to a stable, rules-based global order. The US has played an important and constructive role in the Asia-Pacific for nearly 80 years. And Singapore has consistently supported a strong US presence in the region, through our words and actions.
We have substantial bilateral cooperation on economic, defence, and security issues, and also strong people-to-people ties. Singapore is the second largest Asian investor in the US, and the US is the largest investor in Singapore. Singapore’s investments in the US, and US exports to Singapore support over a quarter million American jobs.
On the defence front, Singapore is a Major Security Cooperation Partner of the US – in fact the only country with this status. For more than 30 years, we have had a MOU on Defence Cooperation, signed in 1990, and recently renewed in 2019, which has provided US military access to Singapore’s air and naval bases.
We are also expanding cooperation into new areas, including cybersecurity, digital economy, sustainable development, and even space.
US Regional Engagement
Singapore deeply appreciates President Biden’s leadership in strengthening US engagement of the region.
We welcomed his intention to host an ASEAN-US Special Summit here soon. It is a strong affirmation of American commitment to Southeast Asia and to ASEAN centrality.
The President and I discussed the importance of the US growing both its strategic and economic stakes in the Asia-Pacific. It is important to advance a positive economic agenda that is open, inclusive, up to date, and flexible. We therefore welcome America’s proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which will strengthen America’s engagement in the evolving regional economic architecture.
I discussed with the President his recent visit to Europe and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
Singapore is a staunch supporter of international law and the UN Charter, which prohibits acts of aggression against a sovereign state.
And that is why we have strongly condemned the unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine. The sovereignty, political independence, and territorial integrity of all countries, big and small, must be respected. The unprovoked military invasion of a sovereign country under any pretext is unacceptable. We cannot condone any country arguing that another country’s independence is the result of “historical errors and crazy decisions”.
I shared with President Biden the measures that Singapore has taken to constrain Russia’s capacity to conduct war against Ukraine. Our actions are based on the principles that are fundamental to our survival and existence as an independent sovereign nation. We have upheld these principles, and voted in accordance with them at the UN, in successive crises over many decades, involving different countries.
The war in Ukraine has implications for the Asia-Pacific. There are potential flash points and contentious issues in our region too, which if not managed well, could escalate to open conflict. Countries with interests in the regions need to pursue all efforts to settle disagreements through peaceful means, so that we can avoid reaching the point of no return. It is important therefore, to keep open channels of dialogue between countries, including at the highest level. This will help to manage developments in order to avoid conflict and prevent misreading each other’s intentions. We also need to create inclusive constructs to bridge differences and encourage cooperation and interdependence in the Indo-Pacific, for example, the APEC Leaders’ Meeting (AELM), and the proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
The US has enduring strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific. And many friends in the region who want you to stay actively and consistently engaged.
And I am confident that within this regional context, Singapore’s own relationship with the US will continue to grow from strength to strength.
Thank you very much.
Q (CNA): Prime Minister, you advocated the benefits for the United States to develop a Bipartisan Consensus on Asia, that Asia depends on a predictable US policy towards the region. How assured are you though, that the momentum you have seen with ASEAN-US engagement has the ability to move the needle on shared objectives in the Asia Pacific towards the fundamentals that we all need to live by – peace, prosperity and economic development? And basically, how well is President Biden doing in this regard?
PM Lee: I think if you put it at a very broad level, there is consensus on the direction of the policy in Asia Pacific – that they want to engage China, that they are trying to develop a stable, predictable relationship with China, and at the same time, engaging other countries in the region, not just on strategic and security issues, but also on economic cooperation, trade and other investment and environmental sustainability links.
So at a very broad level, I think the consensus is there. At the level of specific policies, each administration launches new initiatives. I am quite convinced, having seen several administrations, that this one is completely focused on achieving something lasting in Asia, and we in Singapore do our best to help to make sure that their proposal work and will take root and will continue to grow for many years to come.
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