Straits Times: PM Lee to meet President Trump at the White House on Oct 23

United States President Donald Trump will welcome Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the White House on Oct 23, the US leader's press secretary announced yesterday.

"President Trump looks forward to reaffirming the relationship between the United States and Singapore, which has been one of America's closest partners in Asia for more than 50 years," she said. "The President and Prime Minister will discuss ways to further strengthen our economic, political, security and people-to-people ties, and work to advance United States engagement and mutual interests throughout the Indo-Pacific region."

The visit is likely to be seen as an opportunity for both countries to reaffirm their strong bilateral ties.

It also signals the Trump administration's continued engagement of the Asia-Pacific, coming just over a week before Mr Trump's maiden trip to the region as President.

He has hosted two Asean leaders - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha - at the White House in the past month.

The Oct 23 meeting will be the second time PM Lee and Mr Trump are meeting, following their first at the Group of 20 Leaders' Summit in Germany in July. Mr Trump had said he looked forward to receiving Mr Lee in Washington later this year.

They also committed to work together to advance the bilateral relationship, and Mr Lee said he looked forward to the President's participation in the annual round of key regional meetings next month.

Last month, the White House announced that Mr Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Hawaii from Nov 3 to 14.

After visiting the three key East Asian nations, he will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam, before attending the Asean-US Summit and East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

Mr Lee and Mr Trump also spoke over the phone in late August, when Mr Lee called to express his sympathies over the loss of life in Hurricane Harvey, and offer Singapore's Chinook helicopters based in Texas to assist in disaster relief efforts.

Ms Bonnie Glaser of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies told The Straits Times that PM Lee's visit is timely.

"Anxiety in the region about the US has been growing, and I think the visit provides an opportunity for PM Lee to convey regional concerns to President Trump and provide some suggestions about how to increase regional confidence and strengthen US ties with South-east Asia and Asean," she said.

"Singapore has always been a key partner of the US in the region, and I expect this visit will serve to strengthen those ties."