Japan Foreign Minister to be first high-level official to visit Singapore since Covid-19 outbreak

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will have to take a Covid-19 test before leaving and returning to Japan, and travel on a chartered plane.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will have to take a Covid-19 test before leaving and returning to Japan, and travel on a chartered plane.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO - Japan's top diplomat Toshimitsu Motegi will arrive in Singapore on Wednesday (Aug 12) for a three-day visit, becoming the first high-ranking minister to make an official visit to the Republic since border entry restrictions were put in place due to Covid-19.

He is scheduled to pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and hold talks with his Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday.

Japan's Foreign Ministry, in its statement, noted that a new Cabinet was recently formed in Singapore. Referring to the talks on Thursday, it said: "Through this face-to-face meeting, we will strengthen bilateral relations and exchange opinions on measures against the coronavirus as well as regional geopolitics."

The talks will likely touch on the resumption of cross-border travel between the two countries, as well as on China's rising assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Singapore's Foreign Ministry in a statement last month described Singapore and Japan as strong economic partners.

It said: "The establishment of a reciprocal green lane between our countries will be an important and positive step forward towards restoring connectivity, and facilitating essential business and official travel with the necessary public health safeguards."

Mr Motegi will visit Kuala Lumpur on Friday for talks with Malaysia's Minister of International Trade and Industry Azmin Ali and Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, before returning to Tokyo on Saturday.

The Foreign Minister's trip to Singapore and Malaysia this week comes amid a flurry of Japanese diplomatic activity as it looks to expand business opportunities and push for an easing of bilateral border controls.

Japan, which is spearheading the Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision, has also increasingly been taking a stronger tone against China on such issues as its military expansionism in both the East and South China Sea, as well as on Hong Kong.

 
 

Mr Motegi became the first Japanese Cabinet minister to travel abroad since February when he made a four-day visit to London last week to iron out the fine print of a new economic partnership agreement between Japan and Britain.

He is due to visit Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar from Aug 20 to 25.

The Straits Times understands that Mr Motegi will have to take a Covid-19 test before leaving and returning to Japan as a countermeasure against the disease.

His entourage will be kept to the bare minimum and he will travel on a chartered plane. The use of public transport in the destination countries is also to be avoided.

Upon his return to Japan, Mr Motegi will be exempt from the mandatory two-week quarantine period that all other travellers are subject to, so as not to interfere with his public duties.