Japan's desire to boost peace welcomed by Singapore

Singapore welcomes Japan's desire to contribute to peace and security in the region, within the framework of its security pact with the United States, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday at a joint press conference with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.

Under the decades-old US-Japan Security Alliance, the US has maintained a military presence in the Asia-Pacific with bases in Japan.

Mr Abe, who called on Mr Lee at the Istana yesterday, said he had discussed Japan's plans to make a "positive contribution to peace" in the region during the meeting.

This follows Mr Abe's keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an international security forum, on Friday, in which he outlined his vision for Japan to play a bigger and more active role in the region's peace and security, including supporting South-east Asian countries in their attempts at resolving maritime disputes with China.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel affirmed support for these plans on Saturday.

Speaking to fellow defence chiefs, military officials, diplomats and security experts at the annual forum, Mr Hagel said the US and Japan have "begun revising our defence guidelines for the first time in nearly two decades", to better complement Japan's efforts to "reorient its collective self-defence posture towards actively helping build a peaceful and resilient regional order".

"This will ensure that our alliance evolves to reflect the shifting security environment, and the growing capabilities of Japan's Self-Defence Forces," said Mr Hagel.

Mr Abe has been arguing for a shift in Japan's military posture, to allow for collective self-defence that will give Japan's military a more active role in defending its allies.

Asia Report dispute islands special report

At the Istana yesterday, Mr Lee and Mr Abe had also discussed recent developments in the East and South China seas, where China is locked in disputes with several nations, including Japan, over the sovereignty of various islands.

Tensions spiked recently over a Chinese oil rig parked in waters claimed by both China and Vietnam in the South China Sea.

Mr Lee said yesterday he had had a "useful exchange" with Mr Abe about these situations, including developments "within the last few weeks and days".

Besides regional security, Mr Lee and Mr Abe also reaffirmed bilateral ties between Singapore and Japan.

Mr Lee noted progress was made on some issues, citing the lifting of import restrictions on Japanese food products put in place after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.

To take effect immediately, it will see fresh produce and food products from eight prefectures allowed into Singapore as long as they have been certified safe by Japanese authorities, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore said, following PM Lee's remarks.

Urging economic cooperation, Mr Abe invited Singaporean investors to "seriously consider investing in Japan", which is introducing bold deregulation under his "Abenomics" restructuring plan for the economy.

He also pledged to complete a review of the Japan-Singapore economic partnership agreement and to work with Singapore towards the "early conclusion" of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. These are multilateral trade pacts involving Asean countries and other partner economies.

Mr Lee wished Mr Abe "all the best in reviving Japan's economy and integrating Japan peacefully into the regional architecture".