Tue, Nov 13, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Singapore calls for closer SE Asia ties, Pence backs Trump

Reuters and Bloomberg, SINGAPORE

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, left, his wife, Ho Ching, right, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, second left, and his wife, Siti Hasmah, pose next to an orchid at a ceremony in Singapore yesterday.

Photo: Reuters

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍) yesterday called for greater integration between Southeast Asian nations at a time when multilateralism is under threat.

His remarks came at a business summit on the sidelines of meetings this week between the 10-member ASEAN and external partners, including the US and China, which are in a dispute over trade.

“ASEAN has great potential, but fully realizing it depends on whether we choose to become more integrated and work resolutely towards this goal in a world where multilateralism is fraying under political pressures,” Lee said at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.

Lee has previously said that the US-China trade dispute could have a “big, negative impact” on Singapore, and the city-state’s central bank has said it could soon drag on growth.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Mike Pence said that US President Donald Trump’s absence at the summits was not a snub.

Pence arrived in Tokyo yesterday, with his trip to take him to Singapore and Papua New Guinea.

He faces the challenge of reassuring allies about US policy toward Asia.

The US’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific region “has never been stronger,” Pence told reporters in Alaska on Sunday night en route to Tokyo.

Trump’s decision to skip the event is “not in the least” a snub, Pence said, adding that the president is “where the American people would want him” in Paris for World War I commemorations.

Trump became the first US president not to attend an ASEAN summit since 2013, when then-US president Barack Obama canceled his visit to deal with a US government shutdown.

Pence has the president’s full backing and plans to announce several new initiatives during his week-long trip, a senior US administration official said.

They include bilateral, trilateral and possibly larger initiatives that cover the digital economy, energy and infrastructure, said the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

As the top representative from the world’s largest economy, Pence is to have an audience with several world leaders interested in hearing more about US policy.

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