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Kate speaks as royal tour touches down in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR -- Prince William's wife Catherine made her first public comments on foreign soil Thursday as the royal couple visited a Malaysian hospice during their Asia-Pacific tour.

Catherine briefly addressed staff and patients of the Kuala Lumpur hospice as the British monarchy continues to ease the former Kate Middleton into her official role as the Duchess of Cambridge.

“Providing children and their families with a place of support, care and enhancement at a time of great need is simply life-changing,” she said after Malaysian officials launched a new pediatric palliative care program.

“With effective palliative care, lives can be transformed.”

Kate's speech at Hospis Malaysia had been among the tour's more anticipated events as the British public and fans worldwide sought clues on what sort of image she would project.

But she spoke for only about two minutes, extolling the need for palliative care — a multidisciplinary approach to relieve the physical, emotional and other pain of longtime disease-sufferers.

William arrived in a blue suit and tie and Kate wore an aqua-coloured knee-length pleated dress.

During the visit they sat with young patients, chatting and drawing on clay bricks that will later be included in a wall at the hospice entrance, a British High Commission official said.

William drew a cat and mouse resembling cartoon characters Tom and Jerry, while Catherine asked a 14-year-old boy what to draw.

“Draw what makes you happy,” he replied, the official said, and she drew a “beautiful tree with some birds flying above it.”

William and Kate flew in earlier Thursday from neighboring Singapore, where they kicked off a nine-day tour that will keep them in Malaysia until Saturday before they move on to the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Britain's younger royals are touring the globe throughout 2012 as part of celebrations marking the 60-year reign of William's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.

They will receive a royal welcome at a dinner with Malaysia's 84-year-old king, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, on Wednesday night, and visit a nature conservation site in the Borneo jungle Saturday.

After arriving in Malaysia, they attended a lunch hosted by Prime Minister Najib Razak, followed by the hospice visit.

The couple's marriage in April 2011 was watched by up to two billion TV viewers around the world, sparking fresh excitement in Britain's monarchy after years of crisis.

In Singapore, William caused a stir when he revealed that he wanted to have two children with Catherine, according to British media accompanying them.

About a dozen fans gathered along a security cordon outside the hospice.

Evelyn Tan, a university student who skipped classes along with a fellow classmate for a chance to glimpse the couple, called it a “once in a lifetime chance.”

“We are diehard fans. The British royal family is quite famous in the world so it's a big thing for us,” she said.

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Britain's Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, walk past gravestones as they visit the Kranji Memorial Cemetery in Singapore, Thursday, Sept. 13. The Kranji Memorial Cemetery is a WWII memorial and final resting place for allied forces who perished there. (AFP)

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