June 19, 1981

The President. Ladies and gentlemen, I've been delighted to have a chance to renew a dialog with a man who I think is one of the most dynamic and experienced leaders on the world scene today. Prime Minister Lee deserves much credit not only for the outstanding progress that his country, Singapore, has made, but also for helping to forge the association of the Southeast Asian nations, what we call ASEAN, forge it into a strong and durable organization that it has become.

I count the Prime Minister as a longtime friend. We've had previous meetings, beginning with 10 years ago, and I know that he has an excellent understanding of what it is that we're trying to accomplish here in America.

We've had wide-ranging discussions involving events in several parts of the world, including Asia and Europe and the Middle East. And the Prime Minister welcomes our efforts to reinvigorate our alliances, strengthen our friendships, to consolidate the free world as we move through a very difficult period.

It's been my honor and pleasure to have him here as a distinguished visitor but also as a very good friend, and I count him among my closest associates and friends and have unlimited admiration for him.

Mr. Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, I was greatly privileged more than 10 years ago to have met you, and I count myself fortunate to have done so, because I thereby avoided the mistake of accepting the caricature that was purveyed up till the time the world decided that you were more than just a Governor and an actor. My admiration for you and the fact that I took your views seriously 10 years ago has been my good fortune.

I enjoyed the confidence you showed by sounding off on a wide range of issues, particularly on Asia, on ASEAN, on the evolving relationships between the United States and the countries of the West Pacific, the multiple implications of change in relationships between the countries of the Pacific Basin. Change is an inevitable facet of any dynamic world, and as we view it in historic perspective, I feel great confidence that this country, that has seen a President assassinated, has gone through the throes of 2 years of Watergate and a President that was being hounded and besieged, was able, through its constitutional processes, to throw up someone who has brought such a state of grace and confidence to Washington, to America, and to the world. And confidence in your ability to stand up for what you believe in and to find a way to overcome your economic difficulties, your inflation, your unemployment, in a way that makes it possible for you to live up to your defense commitments -- that is the crux to a safe and secure future for all of us, including the countries of ASEAN and Southeast Asia.

I feel greatly reassured at your robust, your quiet confidence that nothing has changed. Your friendships are enduring. Your principles are abiding. Your friends can ask for no more.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:25 p.m. to reporters assembled at the South Portico of the White House.

Earlier, the President and the Prime Minister had met in the Oval Office, and then they attended a working luncheon in the Blue Room.