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Singapore, US partnering in new areas, including cybersecurity and climate cooperation: PM Lee

SINGAPORE: The United States and Singapore are entering new areas of partnership including cybersecurity, climate and economic cooperation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday (Aug 23).

The countries will also work together on pandemic and space cooperation, he said in a joint press conference with US Vice President Kamala Harris at the Istana.

Ms Harris is in Singapore for an official three-day visit, where she is looking to deepen bilateral cooperation in multiple areas. She had earlier called on President Halimah Yacob and held a private meeting with Mr Lee and delegates from both countries.

The vice president's visit follows US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s trip to Singapore a month ago, with Mr Lee saying that the high-level visits emphasise the US' commitment to the region and shows it has "strategic and economic stakes" in Southeast Asia.

Mr Lee said he had an "excellent" discussion with Ms Harris earlier in the morning, highlighting that they reaffirmed the "robust and enduring" partnership between Singapore and the US.

"I also expressed our appreciation for US’ active role in the Asia Pacific, especially in Southeast Asia, and our shared support for a stable, rules-based international order in the region, based on international law, where all countries can both cooperate and compete peacefully with one another, and prosper together," he said.

Mr Lee said Singapore would also like to offer the Republic of Singapore Air Force's multi-role tanker transport aircraft to help the US as it conducts an evacuation of refugees from Afghanistan.

CYBERSECURITY

On the 55th anniversary of Singapore-US relations, Mr Lee said the countries concluded three agreements between their cyber, defence and finance agencies.

The agencies involved said they will strengthen cooperation in critical technology, critical infrastructure protection, data security and sharing of best practices.

They will also cooperate on regional cyber capacity-building, and international cyber policy discussions to support a rules-based multilateral order in cyberspace.

CLIMATE AND ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Mr Lee said Singapore and the US will launch a climate partnership and new Smart City capacity building intiatives.

Singapore and the US will also embark on a Partnership for Growth and Innovation, Mr Lee said, as he welcomed the US-Singapore Supply Chain Dialogue to strengthen supply chain resilience.

PANDEMIC AND SPACE COOPERATION

Moving on to the pandemic, Mr Lee said Singapore and the US will pursue collaboration on genome sequencing and epidemic intelligence.

This will speed up identification of new COVID-19 variants as well as emerging disease threats, and augment regional preparedness for current and future pandemics, he said.

Finally, Mr Lee said he was happy to see both sides cooperate on space, which he called the "next frontier".

Mr Lee called the new areas of partnerships a "substantial agenda of deliverables" that improve the partnership between both countries.

SINGAPORE-US TRAVEL

During the press conference, Mr Lee was asked by a reporter what it would take for Singapore to start a quarantine-free travel arrangement with the US. Such travel arrangements, said Mr Lee, would depend on the vaccination progress of a country, prevalence of infections and travel protocols such as pre-departure testing, vaccine certificates and arrival procedures.

Mr Lee said Singapore has maintained tight borders for some time and tackled the pandemic through vaccinations and infection control.

"I think we are getting there but we are nowhere near herd immunity. And we are now able to contemplate vaccinated, safe quarantine-free travels with conditions and tests and procedures with countries," he said.

"The US is one of the countries which we will be pursuing these conversations with," he added.

BILATERAL TIES

Mr Lee said economic cooperation between Singapore and the US is "dynamic and flourishing", highlighting how Singapore is the second-largest Asian investor in the US with a direct investment stock of US$65 billion.

On defence and security, Mr Lee said both countries "cooperate well" on transnational issues including terrorism, cybersecurity and counter-proliferation, pointing out that Singapore has one of the largest foreign training presences in the US.

"I'm confident that our longstanding and multi-faceted bilateral relationship will continue to strengthen, year by year," he said.

Ms Harris said the areas of partnership covered on Monday reflected the breadth and depth of partnership between the US and Singapore, and that the relationship is based on a shared vision in the challenges and opportunities both countries face. 

"Our administration is committed to enduring engagement in Singapore, into Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific. I look forward, Prime Minister, to continuing and strengthening our relationship for years to come," she added.

Source: CNA/hz(cy)

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