Singapore welcomes a more active Japan in region: PM Lee

TPP, Shinkansen, and South China Sea discussed at meeting with Abe

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe at the state guest house in Tokyo yesterday. Their bilateral meeting was the leaders' ninth since 2013.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong meeting his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe at the state guest house in Tokyo yesterday. Their bilateral meeting was the leaders' ninth since 2013.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Singapore welcomes Japan playing a more active role in the region, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday, as he discussed security and economic issues with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.

With protectionist sentiments on the rise globally, PM Lee said the ratification of the "strategically important" Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is crucial for both countries.

Speaking to media alongside Mr Abe after a bilateral summit, PM Lee said: "Japan's ratification is very important because Japan is the second-largest economy in the TPP and the third-largest economy in the world."

Mr Abe said both countries agreed to "cooperate for the early entry into force" of the pact, which 12 Pacific nations have signed. It is now being debated in Japan's Diet and PM Lee said he was encouraged by Mr Abe's confidence of getting support for its ratification.

PM Lee was also hopeful that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would "make good progress", and that the bilateral Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement could be reviewed and brought "up to date".


He added: "Singapore supports the Abe administration's 'Proactive Contribution to Peace' policy and the peace and security legislation under the framework of the United States-Japan Security Alliance."

The bilateral meeting was the leaders' ninth since 2013.

After the meeting, PM Lee received, on behalf of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, Japan's highest honour for a foreign dignitary.

Japan posthumously awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers to the late Mr Lee for helping to forge bilateral ties over several decades.

PM Lee is in Tokyo on a four-day visit to mark 50 years of bilateral relations. And Mr Abe said their meeting produced "notable outcomes (that) elevate our cooperative relations to new heights". He also announced that Japan will welcome President Tony Tan Keng Yam on a state visit in late November.

Both leaders also agreed to form a vice-ministerial level committee to discuss cooperation in land, sea and air transport and infrastructure. Mr Abe hoped this would include introducing Japan's Shinkansen technology for the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur high-speed rail project. PM Lee said he told Mr Abe it was "absolutely Singapore's wish to have the best technology for the high-speed rail".

PM Lee said Singapore is "working with Malaysia to ensure a rigorous, objective and high-standard process for tender in order to get the best possible train set".

"The Shinkansen's long record of safety, reliability and excellence would stand it in good stead in the bid," he added.

Both leaders also discussed LNG bunkering and air services. PM Lee said the 2020 Tokyo Olympics made it timely to increase flight capacity "not only between Singapore and Japan but also beyond".

On North Korea, PM Lee said Singapore was deeply concerned by recent provocations and hoped Pyongyang "will return to the path of dialogue sooner rather than later".

On the South China Sea, he said Singapore is a non-claimant state and does not take sides on the competing territorial claims. But it has key interests to protect, that include freedom of navigation and overflight, and a rules-based regional and international order.

This order, he said, "upholds and protects the rights and privileges of all states, and shows full respect for legal and diplomatic processes in the resolution of disputes."

He also urged Japan to further deepen ties with Asean.

PM Lee will speak at a conference on the future of Asia today before leaving for home.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore welcomes a more active Japan in region: PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe