The U.S. has honored foreign heads of state as important bilateral partners with official state visits since 1874 when President Ulysses S. Grant hosted King David Kalahaua of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.
This week is Singapore’s turn, as President Obama hosts Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. But these visits aren’t all about ceremonies, fine dining and 21-gun salutes. Bilateral initiatives are also often announced. During this state visit, President Obama and Prime Minister Lee announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for cooperation on cybersecurity issues.
The MOU covered a number of issues, such as—according to the joint statement by the U.S. and Singapore—affirming “support for the multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance,” deepening information exchange and sharing, carrying out “new bilateral initiatives on critical infrastructure cybersecurity” and cooperating in regional capacity building.
Obama and Lee also affirmed that “international law applies to state conduct in cyberspace, and committing to promote voluntary norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace.” The two countries also agreed that no country should “conduct or knowingly support:” internet activity that damages critical infrastructure, prevent national computer incident response teams from responding to cybersecurity incidents or cyber-theft of intellectual property “with the intent of providing competitive advantage to its companies or commercial sectors.”
The MOU was signed by David Koh, chief executive of the Cyber Security Agency and Singapore, and Suzanne Spaulding, the under-secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security.
Hopefully the fate of the first state dinner recipient in 1874 doesn’t befall Singapore—it was only 85 short years later that Hawai’i was absorbed into the U.S.
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