Biden says it’s too early to find out whether Russia will move back from Kyiv

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President Joe Biden welcomed Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the White House on Tuesday amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s growing influence in Asia.

The president and Lee both agreed to answer one question in a “press statement” after their meeting Tuesday afternoon, during which Biden was asked by the Associated Press about his opinion on Russia’s announcement that it would withdraw troops from the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

“We’ll see, I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are. We’ll see if they follow through on what they suggest,” Biden replied.

He noted that negotiations continued throughout Tuesday, as he spoke earlier in the morning with European leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

“There seems to be a consensus that — let’s see what they have to offer,” Biden said. “We will find out what they do, but in the meantime we will continue to keep sanctions strong, we will continue to provide the Ukrainian military with their ability to defend themselves, and we will continue to monitor closely what happens.”

Biden’s comments to the press came a day after he tried to explain what he meant when he said in Warsaw on Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot stay in power.”

That question-and-answer session sparked more headaches, as Biden said he expressed his “moral outrage” when he made the unscripted comment, but clarified that he was not calling for regime change.

President Joe Biden answered a reporter’s question during a “press statement” he made with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and President Joe Biden (right) participated in a press statement at the White House on Tuesday afternoon

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and President Joe Biden (right) participated in a press statement at the White House on Tuesday afternoon

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and President Joe Biden (right) participated in a press statement at the White House on Tuesday afternoon

Reporters pointed out that Biden’s comments could inadvertently be used by Russia to justify further escalation.

“Nobody believes I was talking about taking down Putin…nobody believes that,” Biden replied Monday. “I expressed my indignation at this man’s behavior.”

Biden kept his performance alongside Lee in the Oval Office short and scripted on Tuesday, balancing a note card in his lap.

“The rules-based order faces unprecedented challenges,” Biden said, sitting next to the Singaporean leader. “Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine is an urgent threat to both Europe and I believe the Indo-Pacific.”

Biden noted that “borders cannot be changed by force” and said that every nation, large and small, had the “rights to their sovereignty.”

“I want to thank you, Prime Minister, for Singapore’s principled leadership in supporting the people of Ukraine,” the US president continued. “I know it’s not easy, but I’d like to thank you for it. You are a man of principles and every time you had to, you took a step higher.’

Singapore stands out in the region by, along with the United States and Western allies, imposing sanctions on Russia for its actions against Ukraine.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) meets President Joe Biden (right) in the Oval Office on Tuesday

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) meets President Joe Biden (right) in the Oval Office on Tuesday

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) meets President Joe Biden (right) in the Oval Office on Tuesday

President Joe Biden (pictured) receives Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on an unusually cold March day

President Joe Biden (pictured) receives Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on an unusually cold March day

President Joe Biden (pictured) receives Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on an unusually cold March day

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks at the start of his meeting with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Tuesday

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks at the start of his meeting with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Tuesday

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks at the start of his meeting with President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Tuesday

Biden — sitting in front of a blazing fire as Tuesday was an unusually cold day for March in DC — said the two leaders would discuss the US-ASEAN relationship, “freedom of the seas” — code for China’s claims in the South -China Sea – promoting a return to democracy in Burma and sustainable economic growth between the two nations.

Lee thanked Biden for hosting “this special moment in world affairs.”

“I’m sure you’re completely captivated by what’s happening in Europe right now,” Lee said.

Lee called Singapore a “very good partner” of the United States. “And our relations are doing very well,” the prime minister added.

“We will, of course, also discuss Ukraine and what that means for the Asia-Pacific region,” Lee said.

After the meeting, when they appeared together in the East Room, the leaders made it clear that Ukraine and Russia dominated the conversation, but other issues – including North Korea’s latest weapons tests – were discussed.

“Today with the Prime Minister’s visit and Singapore’s strong leadership in this area, it is clear that Putin’s war is unacceptable to countries in every region of the world – not just Europe but every region of the world,” Biden said. .

“We cannot condone any country that claims that another country’s independence is the result of historic mistakes and crazy decisions,” Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said from the East Room on Tuesday.

He also said of Lee, “Both you and Singapore hit way above your weight — way above your weight.”

In return, Lee thanked Biden for the “very warm welcome.”

“Singapore is a staunch supporter of international law and the UN Charter, which prohibits acts of aggression against a sovereign state. And that is why we strongly condemned Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine,” the Singapore Prime Minister said.

He called Russian interference in Ukraine “unacceptable.”

“We cannot condone any country that claims that another country’s independence is the result of historic mistakes and crazy decisions,” Lee said.

Lee also spoke of how the conflict in Ukraine could have repercussions in Asia-Pacific, where certain territorial disputes “could escalate into open conflict.”

“Countries with interests in the region should do everything in their power to settle disagreements peacefully so that we can avoid reaching a point of no return,” Lee said, encouraging “open channels for dialogue” between countries. also at the leadership level.

He told Biden there are “a lot of friends in the region who want you to stay actively and consistently involved.”

Lee was the first leader of a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to visit Biden’s White House.

Biden was due to travel to Asia for an ASEAN meeting later this spring, but that trip has now been postponed due to scheduling conflicts.

“We are disappointed, but we are very committed to looking for ways we can find a good time to schedule this,” the official said.

However, Biden will host a summit of ASEAN leaders at the White House later in the spring.

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Singapore in August.

Lee will also visit Harris on Tuesday.

Lee spent Monday at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Biden and Lee last met on the sidelines of the G20 in Rome in October.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) greets Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) ahead of their meeting at the Pentagon on Monday

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) greets Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) ahead of their meeting at the Pentagon on Monday

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) greets Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (right) ahead of their meeting at the Pentagon on Monday

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