Bush to spell out his ideas on Asia in S’pore

Speech at NUS will outline his vision on tackling region’s problems.

US PRESIDENT George W. Bush will deliver a speech highlighting the importance of Asia in the world at the National University of Singapore, when he visits the Republic on Thursday.

The White House says he will lay out his vision on how the United States and Asian countries can work together to tackle problems of poverty, disease, terrorism and energy security.

“South-east Asia is a region with an active Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist presence that we are working with partners to defeat,” National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters.

“It is a region where serious transnational health challenges exist, including avian flu, and the US is cooperating with regional nations to control these threats.”

Mr Bush, who will be travelling with his wife Laura, US government officials and the Washington press corps, will meet President SR Nathan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

PM Lee will also host Mr and Mrs Bush and their delegation to a dinner during their overnight stay.

Singapore enjoys good relations with the US – ties that are founded on defence and economic cooperation.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also highlighted its critical role in the war on terror in an interview with The Straits Times this week.

She said: “We have excellent cooperation in counter-terrorism. Singapore is among the best.

“It has the right values and sees terrorism as a threat to free people. We have a similar view on this.

“We can’t have a better partner than Singapore.”

Underlying the economic and security links are the close ties between the two countries’ leaders.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was in the US last month for two weeks, where he met Mr Bush and had several meetings with senior administration officials.

That visit built on efforts by PM Lee and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who has been making trips to Washington every 15 to 18 months, while several top US officials have visited Singapore over the past year.

The Straits Times also understands that one reason Mr Bush has chosen Singapore to make his only major speech during an eight-day visit to the region is that the US views the Republic as a template of harmonious ethnic diversity.

His South-east Asian trip will also take him to Vietnam, where he will hold talks with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and President Nguyen Minh Triet, as well as Indonesia, where he will meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

In Hanoi, he will attend the Apec summit and hold bilateral meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Dr Rice will lead the US delegation at the Apec meeting and join the President on his one-day trip to Indonesia.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayudha said Jakarta expected the talks with Mr Bush to cover pressing issues surrounding the country’s push to reduce poverty and speed economic recovery.

Among the topics to be covered are possible cooperation in education, health, biotechnology and an early warning system for natural disasters.

With additional reporting by Devi Asmarani, Indonesia Correspondent in Jakarta

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