PM Lee congratulates Japan's new PM Kishida, praises Suga's leadership

PM Lee Hsien Loong (right) meeting with then LDP policy research council chairman Fumio Kishida in 2019. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

TOKYO - Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has congratulated his Japanese counterpart, Mr Fumio Kishida, who was formally appointed on Monday (Oct 4).

In a letter to Mr Kishida, Mr Lee noted that the two countries share a "very substantive agenda," ranging from upholding the multilateral trade system and rules-based order, to areas like digitalisation, climate change and rapidly ageing societies.

Mr Lee underlined the resilience of bilateral ties as Singapore and Japan marked 55 years of diplomatic relations this year, adding that he hoped to welcome Mr Kishida to Singapore soon.

They last met in September 2019, Mr Lee recalled. Mr Kishida was visiting the Republic then to deliver a speech at the Singapore Summit in his capacity as chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s Policy Research Council.

Mr Kishida became prime minister after having won the LDP presidential election last week. This victory, Mr Lee said, demonstrated "the trust and confidence of your party in your leadership".

Mr Lee noted how Singapore and Japan have been working together even amid Covid-19 in such areas as connectivity and post-pandemic recovery.

Singapore also appreciates Japan's chairmanship of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership commission this year, Mr Lee said, adding that he hopes for Tokyo's support when Singapore takes over next year.

The trade pact has been in the news recently, with applications from Britain, China and Taiwan to join, and will likely have to navigate tough trade negotiations going forward.

Singapore and Japan are also on the same page in seeking the early entry into force of the Asean-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Mr Lee noted, while pointing out that Tokyo is an important dialogue partner to Asean in fields such as the digital economy, public health and smart cities.

Mr Lee separately sent a valedictory letter to Mr Kishida's predecessor, Mr Yoshihide Suga.

He noted that Mr Suga oversaw Japan's successful hosting of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

He also cited Mr Suga's leadership in Japan's push towards digitalisation and sustainable development, efforts that Mr Lee said "will benefit not only Japan but the international community as well".

"Over your long career in public service, you have worked tirelessly for the betterment of the lives of the Japanese people," he said. "As prime minister, you led the country through an unprecedented and challenging time amidst the COVID-19 pandemic."

Mr Lee noted how Singapore and Japan kept up high-level exchanges and cooperation throughout the Covid-19 pandemic while strengthening engagement in areas such as third-country infrastructure development. He also thanked Mr Suga for Japan's push to promote vaccine multilateralism.

"I look forward to working with your successor to build on your good work in further strengthening our ties," Mr Lee concluded.

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