When Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong joins U.S. President Barack Obama for a state dinner of American Wagyu beef at the White House on Tuesday, it will be a diplomatic coup for the small city-state.
Obama has thrown just 11 state dinners since he became president in 2009, in stark contrast compared to 1960s predecessor Lyndon Johnson, who held 54 state dinners in a single presidential term.
And it is expected to be a lavish affair, with a preview of the menu showing it will include lime basil from first lady Michelle Obama's own garden, plus a dessert of peach sangria cake accented with coconut milk and kaffir lime leaves in celebration of Asia, and a performance by U.S. singer Chrisette Michelle.
"These state dinners are extremely rare ... The fact that Singapore has been invited for such a visit and the state dinner is a tremendous compliment," Judith Fergin, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AmCham Singapore), explained.
Fergin added that the state dinner also highlighted "the pivotal role that Singapore has played over the years in anchoring the relationship between the U.S. and Asia."
The two countries have had economic, military and diplomatic ties since 1966 - a year after Singapore's independence - and are partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, the global coalition fighting Islamic State, and the Paris Climate agreement.
Khong Yuen Foong, Li Ka Shing professor of political science at the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, said the foundation of the relationship was laid by Singapore's late founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who was also the current Prime Minister's father.
"When the British forces announced their withdrawal from Southeast Asia, Lee took two-month sabbatical in the U.S. in 1968 and got to understand the Americans much better, coming back with an admiration for American innovativeness, universities, and strategies," Khong said.
"Every since then, the American leaders saw Lee as someone from Asia who could add value to their strategic assessment of the Asia region," he said, adding that "few leaders in Asia are seen that way."