President Tony Tan on nine-day state visit to Japan from Monday, with stops in Tokyo, Kyoto and Miyagi

President Tony Tan Keng Yam will make a nine-day state visit to Japan starting Monday (Nov 28).
President Tony Tan Keng Yam will make a nine-day state visit to Japan starting Monday (Nov 28). ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

TOKYO – President Tony Tan Keng Yam will make a nine-day state visit to Japan starting Monday (Nov 28) 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 on Sunday (Nov 27).

This is the second state visit by a Singapore President to Japan. The first, in 2009, by the late Mr S R Nathan 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 that has been christened SJ50 – Singapore-Japan 50 – and been marked by a series of visits by high-level leaders from both sides to underscore the robust ties between the two countries.

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.

Dr Balakrishnan's visit coincided with the exact date 50 years ago that bilateral ties were established – April 26, 1966. Mr Goh spoke at the Nikkei Future of Asia conference, where Singapore founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew regularly featured in the past.

And on PM Lee’s visit, he received on behalf of the late Mr Lee the rare prestigious accolade Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, which was conferred for his efforts to forge bilateral ties over several decades.

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 also meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, other Japanese political and business leaders, and attend a reception for Singaporeans living in Japan.

Mr Abe is expected to make a pitch for the use of Japanese shinkansen bullet train technology for the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail project – as he had done with PM Lee and Malaysian PM Najib Razak on their recent visits.

Trade is also likely on the agenda, with both countries part of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership pact. Singapore is Japan's first bilateral trading partner, and their agreement is currently under review to keep it updated.

Over 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.

Dr Tan will also make a day trip to Miyagi prefecture, which was devastated during the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

There, he will visit the Shichigahama Toyama Nursery School, which is one of four reconstruction projects funded by the Singapore Red Cross with donations from the Singapore government and public.

The $5 million project was completed on March 26, 2013, and now enrols 90 children aged below six years old. 

The school – known as Lion Park to recognise Singapore's contributions – is built on elevated ground, and can serve as an evacuation centre for emergencies.

Singapore's total relief efforts had raised $35.7 million – one of the Republic’s largest disaster relief contributions to a single country.

The President will be accompanied by his wife, Mrs Mary Tan, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, Senior Minister of State Sim Ann, Members of Parliament 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.

Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers, Mr J. Y. Pillay, will act as president from Monday to Thursday. After which, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob will do so from Friday to next Tuesday.