Vaccinations key as Singapore, China explore ways to reopen borders

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan at the special meeting between foreign ministers of Asean and China in Beijing on June 7.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan at the special meeting between foreign ministers of Asean and China in Beijing on June 7.PHOTO: MFA

BEIJING - Singapore and China are looking at ways to reopen their borders to each other when the Covid-19 situation improves, with vaccinations a key factor, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on Monday (June 7).

Speaking to Singapore media after a special meeting of the foreign ministers of Asean and China, Dr Balakrishnan said both sides are making preparations to reopen borders to each other.

“We have to watch very carefully what’s happening in our immediate neighbourhood because clearly Singapore can’t open if everywhere else is having a resurgence.

“So it’s very important to also watch how the vaccination programme and the control within our neighbourhood occurs,” he said, adding that the timing is still not right.

The two governments are working on bilateral recognition of vaccine certificates and other protocols that can be in place by the time travel resumes.

Economic and trade development in South-east Asia was also high among the topics for discussion, and both countries are looking forward to working more together on areas like sustainable development.

“Particularly for Singapore, (we have) our China-Singapore Chongqing Connectivity Initiative and the International Land-Sea Trade Corridor (ILSTC). And how this concept links the Belt and the Road to South-east Asia and beyond,” he said, describing this an area for “fertile discussion with much to look forward to”.

The ILSTC is a logistics network centred on Chongqing, linking China to South-east Asia, along with key nodes in the western provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang.

During a bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the main event, Dr Balakrisnan said Singapore is willing to play an important role in the ILSTC to “jointly promote regional and world economic recovery”, according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Wang said both countries need to continue the momentum of high-level exchanges in a flexible manner, the statement reported, and jointly explore more ways to improve economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges during the pandemic.

In the 30 years since China was invited to be an Asean dialogue partner, Singapore has played an important role in deepening Beijing's relations with the grouping, said Mr Wang.

Noting that this is a significant occasion, marking three decades of diplomatic ties between China and Asean, Dr Balakrishnan said the relationship had seen its ups and downs.

But he added: “This was an occasion to reflect on successes, as well as to assess how we move forward, and move forward with the challenges that confront China and Asean.”