WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden welcomed Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the White House for bilateral meetings Tuesday to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, maintaining peace in the Indo-Pacific region, climate change and supply chain issues.
"This is a critical moment for I think for both our countries and the region that you so heavily represent," said Biden during brief remarks to the press, seated next to Lee.
Biden added, the partnership between the two countries "is as important as it's ever been, as a matter of fact I think it's growing."
Lee thanked Biden for receiving him at this "critical moment in world affairs" and noted Singapore as a major security partner of the U.S.
"I’m sure you are completely seized with what’s happening in Europe right now, but we doubly appreciate the time you are giving to the relationship with Singapore and the southeast Asian countries generally," said Lee.
A senior Biden administration official told reporters Monday in a preview of the visit the two leaders will be meeting at a "very critical time, one in which the rules-based international order faces unprecedented challenges."
The official added, "I think it’s obviously shaped by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustifiable war against Ukraine, which poses an urgent threat not only for Europe, but also for the Indo-Pacific."
Singapore has implemented sanctions and export controls against Russia in an effort to support Ukraine, in what the official described as a "very significant development."
After the two leaders meet Tuesday morning, they are expected to deliver a statement to the press from the White House. Singapore’s leader will then meet with Vice President Kamala Harris.
The meetings are an opportunity for the two countries to deepen their cooperation, the official said, including expanding engagement on trade in the region, as well as strengthen security ties — a key issue as China expands its military posture in the South China Sea. The leaders will also discuss climate change, space and cyberthreats, and fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
The official said the Biden administration believes the U.S. partnership with Singapore has "important benefits for the American people."
Biden last met with Lee at the G-20 summit in Rome in October.