PM Lee Hsien Loong held a Joint Press Conference with US Vice-President Mike Pence at the Istana on 16 November 2018.
PM Lee Hsien Loong held a Joint Press Conference with US Vice-President Mike Pence at the Istana on 16 November 2018. YouTube grab/ Prime Minister's Office, Singapore

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and US Vice-President Mike Pence announced on Friday that Singapore and US will collaborate to conduct cybersecurity training workshops in Singapore as well as around the region. Both the countries also finalised another deal that will facilitate the bilateral exchange of tax information.

During a joint press conference with VP Pence, PM Lee stated that Singapore's "Cyber Security Agency and the US State Department will be working together on a technical assistance programme to conduct cybersecurity training workshops in Singapore and regionally."

In addition, VP Pence said that expanding commerce in this century needs much safer and reliable digital access. He also told the media that this program "will leverage American business expertise to help our ASEAN partners to defend their digital border."

After their bilateral meeting, PM Lee reaffirmed the "robust and enduring partnership" between both countries and said, "US plays an important and constructive role in our region and hence Singapore hopes to continue developing our ties with the US as well as strengthen the ASEAN-US relationship."

In terms of economy, PM Lee noted that while the country's investment into US and US exports to Singapore support more than a quarter of a million American jobs, US has also become the largest foreign investor of Singapore, as many American companies prefer Singapore to build their Asian headquarters.

While referring China's growing presence and the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, VP Pence stated that US encourages all the ASEAN countries to continue to move forward "to a meaningful and binding code of conduct on the South China Sea. The countries of this region must be able to explore and develop their own resources, navigate their own waters and establish partnerships of their own choosing. The South China Sea does not belong to any one nation."

He also called for an open Indo-Pacific region free of "imperial aggression" on Friday. While praising both the country's "shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific," the 59-year-old VP Pence said, "empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific; this is a region where every nation, large and small, must be permitted to prosper and thrive."

On the other hand, China claims complete sovereignty over the South China Sea and it should be noted that Beijing has on several occasions also strongly opposed the entry of US warships.

Along with China, another south-east Asian country Philippines have competing claims to the Scarborough Shoal and parts of the Spratly archipelago, which is also claimed partially or entirely by Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and Vietnam.