- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

The Singapore-U.S. Strategic Partnership: The Global City and the Global Superpower

Matthew Shannon Stumpf


This chapter assesses Singapore’s international strategy; examines the country’s relationship with the U.S., China, and other regional states; and makes recommendations for the U.S. and Singapore to deepen their cooperation in the 21st century.

Main Argument

Although Singapore and the U.S. have never been formal treaty allies, they have developed a strong partnership, one that stretches the definition of the term. Singapore seeks to maintain this relationship with the U.S. because it assesses that Washington will continue to provide global leadership as the country resiliently bounces back from the Great Recession. But Singapore still resists an alliance—both as a matter of principle and because its economic and security requirements for positive relations with both the U.S. and China lead it to urge the two powers to accommodate one another. The history of U.S.-Singapore relations demonstrates that U.S. credibility in Asia grows not only as the U.S. establishes defense agreements but also as it develops economic ties that advance shared prosperity, facilitates travel across the Pacific, enforces norms and practices developed in response to global challenges, drives innovation, and develops with its partners a common vision for the future.

Policy Implications

  • The U.S. can improve defense cooperation by giving special recognition and benefits to countries like Singapore that do not pursue alliances but meet other criteria of deep partnership with the United States.
  • The U.S. should work to expand free trade by continuing close cooperation with Singapore on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • The U.S. can support Singapore’s growing diplomatic footprint by encouraging its leadership in enhancing Asian roles in international organizations.