ASEAN-US summit shows US ‘values partnership’ with Southeast Asia: PM Lee

WASHINGTON: The ASEAN-US Special Summit shows that US values its partnership with Southeast Asia amid a “very significant moment” in world affairs, mentioned Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday (May 13).

“We have the warfare in Ukraine, Russia has invaded, we’re post-COVID, popping out from COVID. We even have points within the area. US-China relations are difficult and troublesome.

“And within the midst of all this, for the US to deal with ASEAN and to carry the ASEAN leaders right here and domesticate that relationship and develop it additional, I believe it shows that the US values its partnership with ASEAN, Southeast Asia, and that they want to do extra with us … That’s good for the area and good for us.

“Singapore’s view has been for a long time that the US plays a constructive impact, indispensable role in our region. Nobody else can replace them in that role and the regional balance is shifting, but all the more we appreciate the US continuing to remain engaged.”

Mr Lee was talking to Singapore journalists on the finish of his go to to Washington DC to attend the ASEAN-US Special Summit.

In a joint assertion launched after the summit, ASEAN member states and the US dedicated to establishing an ASEAN-US Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in November.

The international locations additionally reaffirmed their dedication to sustaining and selling peace, safety and stability within the area.

At a gathering with US President Joe Biden on Friday, Mr Lee mentioned Singapore welcomes the improve of the ASEAN-US Strategic Partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

“We look forward to a meaningful, substantive and mutually beneficial Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, one that allows us to explore further cooperation in important areas such as public health goods and infrastructure, and renewable energy infrastructure,” he mentioned.

The joint assertion additionally addressed the scenario in Myanmar, over which ASEAN member states and the US mentioned they continue to be “deeply concerned”.

Urging Myanmar to implement the Five-Point Consensus in a “timely and complete” method, the leaders dedicated to help ASEAN’s efforts to facilitate a peaceable answer.

“We reiterate our commitment to peace and stability in the region and continue to call for the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and for the release of all political detainees, including foreigners,” the assertion learn.

In the conferences, Singapore mentioned bilateral cooperation with the US, and the US “put some new ideas on the table”, mentioned Mr Lee, noting Mr Biden’s announcement to commit US$150 million to the area.

“And of course, talking about the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which is not strictly US-ASEAN, but US with many countries in the region and quite a number of ASEAN countries, are interested in this,” he mentioned.

Some ASEAN international locations are prone to choose up curiosity and can take part within the launch of the financial framework, he added.

While Singapore had hoped that the US would be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Mr Lee famous that former US president Donald Trump determined to withdraw from the partnership when he got here into workplace.

“But we know and we hope, and the US also knows, that US participation in the Asia Pacific cannot be only limited to security and defence. It must also consist of economic cooperation, and also include other areas such as on environmental issues,” mentioned Mr Lee, talking in Mandarin in response to a query from a Lianhe Zaobao journalist.

“The ideal situation is for the US to rejoin the TPP, but US’ domestic politics does not allow them to do so. So the US has come up with an alternative construct, which is the IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Framework).”

While there may be “not much substance yet” within the framework when it comes to funding and commerce, “it has its own value” from “another angle”, mentioned the Prime Minister.

“It is after all a new start. Although the US is not ready to participate in trade or investment cooperation, hopefully with the IPEF, we will be able to work from there and eventually restore economic cooperation fully.”

Mr Biden additionally introduced on Friday that he would nominate his chief of employees and govt secretary on the National Security Council Yohannes Abraham to function ambassador to ASEAN.

ASEAN has not had a US ambassador since January 2017.

On Friday, Mr Lee additionally met Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry for a bilateral assembly, and attended a working lunch hosted by Ms Harris centered on maritime cooperation and pandemic restoration.


Mr Lee responded to questions from journalists concerning the ASEAN leaders’ engagement with Mr Biden on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While ASEAN has taken a stand and issued an announcement “as a whole”, the assertion is “not as strong as it could be” as a result of completely different international locations have completely different views, he mentioned.

For instance, when the UN General Assembly voted to droop Russia from the Human Rights Council, Vietnam and Laos abstained, whereas the opposite international locations voted for it, Mr Lee famous. Singapore additionally abstained from the vote.

“If you look at the national statements and the national actions, I think Singapore’s is the most forthright statement, which we issued and we also had some targeted sanctions on Russia,” he mentioned, including that Cambodia additionally took a powerful stance on the difficulty.

“I think Prime Minister Hun Sen was quite unambiguous and emphatic in his explanation of his position that there must be absolute rules against violating territorial integrity and sovereignty and independence of other countries. Otherwise, where do small countries stand?” mentioned Mr Lee.


The Prime Minister additionally advised journalists he might make modifications to the Cabinet in early June.

Mr Lee was responding to a query on whether or not there have been any updates on Cabinet actions and succession plans, a couple of month after Finance Minister Lawrence Wong was chosen because the chief of the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) fourth-generation, or 4G, management workforce.

The announcement, made on Apr 14 in Singapore, paves the way in which for Mr Wong to grow to be Singapore’s subsequent Prime Minister. He was the primary alternative by an “overwhelming majority”, mentioned retired minister Khaw Boon Wan on the time.

“I’ve had to focus on this trip and I have another trip coming up in two weeks’ time going to the Nikkei conference (in Japan),” Mr Lee mentioned. “But I’m working at it. I hope I shall be able to do it once I’m done with my trips, which means early June.”

At a press convention after Mr Wong was named because the 4G chief in April, Mr Lee had mentioned that whether or not he or Mr Wong would lead the PAP within the subsequent election was a choice that might be made later.

“I will discuss with Lawrence, and we will decide later what the best strategy is for us to fight the next general election,” the Prime Minister advised reporters on the time, including that it’ll depend upon “how things evolve”. 

The subsequent General Election have to be held by 2025.

ASEAN-US summit shows US 'values partnership' with Southeast Asia: PM Lee

Ang Hwee Min

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