BEIJING - Singapore President Halimah Yacob and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang have pledged to deepen bilateral relations in multiple areas, as both countries work on post-pandemic recovery and securing a sustainable future.
The leaders met at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on Saturday (Feb 5) on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Madam Halimah and Mr Li affirmed the strong ties between their countries.
“They welcomed the good momentum in economic cooperation, including the robust growth in trade and investment as well as cooperation in new areas such as the digital economy, green economy and sustainable development,” said the statement.
Both leaders agreed that “there were many areas of convergence between Singapore’s pursuit of innovative, sustainable and inclusive development and China’s current and future development strategies”.
"President Halimah expressed Singapore's readiness to deepen bilateral cooperation and ensure that our relations remain substantive and forward-looking, as both countries work to secure post-pandemic recovery and a sustainable future," said the statement.
The Singapore leader also said she looked forward to "the full resumption of air connectivity and people-to-people exchanges, including the return of all Singapore students to China for their studies" when conditions permit, the statement added.
In pursuit of a "zero Covid-19" policy to manage the coronavirus pandemic, China's borders have largely remained closed, shutting out many people including international students.
Mr Li said China is willing to gradually resume personnel exchanges with Singapore and facilitate the return of Singaporean students, said a Chinese Foreign Ministry read-out of the meeting.
He called for strengthening of bilateral cooperation in multiple fields, including finance, pandemic response, and vocational education and training.
Both governments regularly conduct high-level exchanges, including the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation co-chaired by Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat and Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng.
During their most recent meeting in late December, both sides inked 14 new deals covering areas including sustainability issues, digitalisation and people-to-people exchanges.
Madam Halimah was among 25 foreign dignitaries who attended a banquet hosted by President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on Saturday.
Among the foreign dignitaries attending the Winter Olympics were Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi of United Arab Emirates, Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar and President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt.
Also at the opening of the Games on Friday night were the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. There were also leaders from Europe and Asia Pacific.
At her meeting with Mr Li, Madam Halimah congratulated China on the successful opening ceremony and “expressed appreciation of the unifying power of the Olympics to bring together athletes from around the world to achieve sporting excellence and promote sportsmanship”.
Madam Halimah will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday before returning to Singapore.
Meanwhile, members of the Singapore delegation accompanying Madam Halimah managed to watch some of the sporting events, social media showed.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan posted a video of Dutch speed skater Irene Schouten winning the women’s 3000m event, congratulating her for breaking a 20-year record.
Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling posted pictures of a figure skating event on Friday, and a visit to the historic Temple of Heaven.