WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's 12th state dinner is being held Tuesday night for the prime minister of Singapore, a city-state Obama refers to as an anchor for the U.S. presence in Southeast Asia.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's 12th state dinner is being held Tuesday night for the prime minister of Singapore, a city-state Obama refers to as an anchor for the U.S. presence in Southeast Asia.
The black-tie dinner in honor of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Ho Ching, marks the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between the U.S. and Singapore, an island nation of about 5.7 million people. The allies share close economic and security ties, with more than 3,500 U.S. companies having a presence in Singapore. Singapore was the first Southeast Asian country to join in the fight against the Islamic State group. Both countries also signed onto last year's Paris climate agreement.
Earlier in the day, the two leaders held a joint press conference in which Lee ensured that Singapore would continue to work closely with the United States regardless of who wins this year's tumultuous presidential election. After elections, "positions are re-thought, strategies are nuanced and a certain balance is kept in the direction of the ship of state. It doesn't turn completely upside down," Lee observed.
"The Americans take pride in having a system with checks and balances so that it is not so easy to do things, but it is not so easy to completely mess things up," Lee said, prompting reporters to laugh and Obama to smile. "And we admire that and sometimes we depend upon that."
Dinner will open with Maryland blue crab salad tossed in an Asian citrus curd and rimmed with slivered baby cucumbers. The salad course will showcase heirloom tomatoes from Ohio paired with lime basil from Michelle Obama's garden, as well as mangoes, cucumbers, green papayas and soursop sorbet.
American Wagyu beef dressed with roasted yams, wilted kale and heirloom carrots will anchor the main course for some 200 guests seated at round tables in the East Room.
Dessert is peach sangria cake accented with coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves, a citrus fruit native to Asia, and dressed with White House honey. Pastry chef Susie Morrison also showed off the handmade, spun-sugar orchids and roses she prepared for each table.
California and New York red, white and sparkling wines will be served.
Floral arrangements for the dinner will consist of yellow orchids, yellow roses and other yellow flowers. The color symbolizes the friendship between the two countries.
After dinner, R&B and soul singer-songwriter Chrisette Michele is scheduled to entertain guests, generally a mix of Washington officials and celebrities with some ties to the guests of honor.
The White House said attendees were to include business executives Timothy Armstrong, chairman and chief executive officer of AOL Inc., Douglas Oberhelman, chairman and chief executive officer of Caterpillar Inc.; and Stephen Lee, chairman of Singapore Airlines.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, were also on the guest list, as were actors Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, as well as Michelle Obama's brother, ESPN analyst Craig Robinson.
The last state dinner at the White House for Singapore occurred in October 1985, during Ronald Reagan's presidency, for Lee's late father, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.