TOKYO - A veteran Singaporean diplomat has been conferred a prestigious honour by the Japanese government in recognition of his work to promote bilateral ties. Mr Tan Chin Tiong, 73, who was Singapore's Ambassador to Japan from Oct 2004 to Jan 2012, was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.
His predecessor, Mr Chew Tai Soo, ambassador from 1998 to 2004, was given the same honour in 2016. The late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew was, also in 2016, posthumously recognised with the top honour, the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers.
On Friday (Nov 3), 149 foreigners were honoured with imperial decorations, in a twice-a-year announcement in spring and autumn. Mr Tan, who is now director of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, had "contributed to promoting friendly relations and mutual understanding", said Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In an e-mail reply to The Straits Times, Mr Tan highlighted the close ties both at the official and people-to-people levels between two nations which have shared "decades of cooperation and trust".
He cited how Singaporeans rallied to help Japan after the March 11, 2011 triple disaster, raising $35.7 million in one of the Republic's largest disaster relief efforts. Singapore is also home to the first Japan Creative Centre, which opened in 2009 to showcase Japan's soft power assets, Mr Tan said. He noted the many friendship associations Singapore has set up with Japanese cities and regions.
"Going forward, we can do more to encourage and recognise the work of these friendship associations," he said. "We can also do more to share and learn experiences in ageing and demographic studies where Japan and Singapore mirror each other."
Other notable names honoured on Friday (Nov 3) included former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, 62; former British foreign secretary William Hague, 56; and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, 67.
They were awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, which is a tier higher than the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.