President Tan in Japan to mark 50 years of ties

President Tony Tan Keng Yam will make a nine-day state visit to Japan starting today to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam will make a nine-day state visit to Japan starting today to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Nine-day trip starting today is second state visit by a S'pore head of state to Japan; trade likely to be on agenda

President Tony Tan Keng Yam will make a nine-day state visit to Japan starting today to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties.

On his itinerary are stops in Tokyo, Kyoto and Miyagi, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement yesterday.

This is the second state visit by a Singapore president to Japan. The first, by the late Mr S R Nathan in 2009, made waves as he was the first foreign head of state to visit Hiroshima to meet victims of the atomic bombing.

Dr Tan's visit comes at the end of a year christened SJ50 - Singapore-Japan 50 - during which other high-level leaders also visited Japan to underscore robust ties. Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan visited Tokyo in April, followed by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong a month later and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in September.

Singapore anticipates the strengthening of Asean-Japan ties, as the 10-nation bloc marks its 50th anniversary of ties with Japan next year. Japan is Asean's very first dialogue partner.

In Tokyo, Dr Tan will have an audience with, and be hosted to a state banquet by, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. He will meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other Japanese political and business leaders, and attend a reception for Singaporeans living in Japan.

Mr Abe is likely to make a pitch for the use of Japanese shinkansen bullet train technology in the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail project - as he did with PM Lee and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during their recent visits.

Trade is also likely to be on the agenda, with both countries part of the 12-nation US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership. Its future is now uncertain after Mr Donald Trump, who vowed to scrap the pact, was elected United States president this month.

Singapore is Japan's first bilateral trading partner, and their free trade agreement entered into force in 2002. The agreement is currently under its third review to keep it updated. Statistics show that key exports both ways are electronic equipment and machinery.

In Kyoto, Dr Tan will attend a banquet hosted by Kyoto Prefecture Governor Keiji Yamada, Kyoto City Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa and the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He will also make a day trip to north-eastern Miyagi prefecture, which was devastated during the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. There, he will visit the Shichigahama Toyama Nursery School, one of four reconstruction projects funded by the Singapore Red Cross with donations from the Singapore Government and public.

The $5 million project, completed on March 26, 2013, is known as Lion Park to recognise Singapore's contributions. It is built on elevated ground, and can serve as an evacuation centre for emergencies.

Dr Tan will be accompanied by his wife, Mary; Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say; Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Culture, Community and Youth Sim Ann; MPs Ang Hin Kee and Intan Azura Mokhtar; and senior officials from the President's Office and the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry, and Manpower ministries.

The chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers, Mr J.Y. Pillay, will act as President from today to Thursday. After that, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob will do so from Friday to next Tuesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'President Tan in Japan to mark 50 years of ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe