The United States
Relations between Singapore and the United States became strained in 1988 after the United States was accused of meddling in Singapore's internal affairs and a United States diplomat was expelled as a result of the charge. The United States had objected to the government's policy of restricting the circulation of several Hong Kong-based newspapers, including the Asian Wall Street Journal and the Far Eastern Economic Review, and to the use of the Internal Security Act to detain indefinitely dissidents or those deemed a threat to the existing order. The expelled diplomat was accused of instigating members of the opposition to contest the 1988 elections. The essence of a speech on United States-Singapore relations, given by Lee Hsien Loong before the Asia Society in Washington, D.C., on May 16, 1989, was that the relationship was strong but that the United States should refrain from interfering in Singapore's internal affairs.
The United States was Singapore's largest trading partner in the 1980s. It also was viewed as a benevolent power whose military presence in the region kept Soviet influence in check, balanced China's increasing military strength, and obviated Japan's rearming. Singapore was concerned, however, that the United States eventually would tire of its role in the Asia-Pacific region. This concern was somewhat allayed in 1989 when President George Bush, demonstrating his commitment to maintain American interests in the area, both dispatched Vice President Dan Quayle on an Asian tour and visited the region himself in the first few months of his administration.
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