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Singapore PM: U.S. and China Need ‘Strategic Trust’

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Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for the U.S. and China to build a greater degree of “strategic trust in each other,” in a Tuesday speech hosted by the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council in Washington, D.C.

“China’s development represents a major shift in the balance of power,” Lee said.
“China and the U.S. have to strengthen mutual confidence, in order to manage this shift in the global balance wisely and prudently.”

Singapore is delicately positioned between the military and economic influence of the U.S. and China. As territorial disputes persist in the South China Sea between several Asian nations and China, Singapore has become a voice for moderation amidst the conflicts.

“We should seek to prevent any miscalculation or mishap which will set the region back for many years,” Lee said on Tuesday.

Against this backdrop, Lee has called for an increased U.S. focus toward the region as a stabilizing influence.

“We are all in favor of the U.S. taking an active and constructive interest in Asia. I’m not sure I would describe it as a pivot,” he told The Washington Post in a March interview.
“First, it suggests that this area has been neglected, which isn’t quite so. Secondly, you really want a long-term, implacable, inexorable presence, and I’m not sure if the pivot conveys that nuance.”

Lee’s comments came on the last day of his visit to Washington following visits with President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

Singapore has closer defense ties with the U.S., tending to purchase U.S. military hardware over other countries.

“U.S. forces are the most frequent foreign visitors to our military facilities and we look forward to welcoming your first Littoral Combat Ship shortly,” Lee said.

The city-state is set to host four forward deployed U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ships, starting with an initial deployment of USS Freedom (LCS-1) in the next few months.