Obama Heaps Praise on Singapore

President Barack Obama praised Singapore on Tuesday as an example to the world and a key source of advice for his diplomatic pivot to Asia, as he met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"Singapore is one of the most successful countries in the world," Obama said, thanking Lee for close US-Singapore military cooperation and the city state's role as a US ally in Asia, a prime focus of Obama foreign policy.

"Personally, there are very few world leaders who I am more appreciative of in terms of their advice, counsel and thoughtful analysis than Prime Minister Lee," Obama said before the Oval Office talks.

The meeting was expected to focus on regional security challenges as well as trade, with Singapore and the United States key players in the evolving Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact.

Lee said he was honored to visit the White House so early in Obama's second term, welcomed the president's focus on Asia and praised Washington for working on the key bilateral relationship with China.

He also said he was looking forward to welcoming the USS Freedom, a littoral combat ship, which is due in the city-state for a temporary deployment.

Singapore plans to host up to four of the stealthy vessels, which are designed to operate in shallow coastal waters.

The Obama administration's pivot of military and diplomatic resources to the Asia-Pacific is currently being overshadowed by a new outburst of belligerence by North Korea.

The president elected not to answer shouted questions from reporters about the issue in his photo-op with Lee.

Earlier, White House press spokesman Jay Carney said that Washington would like China and Russia to do more to restrain Pyongyang.

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