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US, Singapore Sign Strategic Agreement

Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong (l) with President Bush
The United States and Singapore have signed a new agreement that President Bush says takes their relationship "beyond just economics."

Singapore has been one of the United States' staunchest Asian supporters in the U.S.-led global war on terror.

This fact was acknowledged by President Bush at the White House Tuesday, in a joint appearance with visiting Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"We've just had a very interesting and comprehensive discussion about our bilateral relations, which are strong. But Singapore is a country that has an interesting position in the Far East. The prime minister brings a perspective about the U.S. role, about the future of the region, that I have found fascinating," he said.

The United States has had a free-trade agreement with Singapore since January 2004. During Tuesday's meeting the two leaders signed a new strategic agreement that calls for closer cooperation in defense and security. A joint statement said the agreement would increase cooperation in counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, joint military exercises and training.

"This agreement takes our relationship beyond just economics. It's a strategic relationship. It is one that will have long-term consequences for both our peoples. But I happen to believe that it will have long-term consequences for peace in the region. And that's very important," he said.

Prime Minister Lee said his country has a mutual interest with the United States to fight terrorism. He added that he discussed many issues with President Bush, including his support for continued U.S. presence in Asia.

"And I've been happy to have a wide exchange of views with the President on how Southeast Asia is developing; what's happening in Asia, how China and India are opening up and becoming influential in the region and exerting a positive influence on many of the countries, and how America can be part of Asia and engage, participating, and continuing to stabilize and to maintain the security in the region, as it has done for many years," he said.

The Singaporean leader is scheduled to meet with U.S. Congressional leaders Wednesday.