HANOI - Vietnam and Singapore have a long history of friendship between their leaders, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a banquet on Thursday (March 23).
Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew struck up a close friendship with Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet, saw Vietnam's economic potential as it embarked on Doi Moi "and admired your people's energy, tenacity and resilience", he said at the dinner hosted by Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
"I am very glad to be here, to renew our friendship and to explore how we can do more together," said Mr Lee, addressing about 65 guests comprising the Singapore delegation as well as high-ranking Vietnamese officials.
Mr Lee, who is on a four-day official visit, noted the changes in the Hanoi landscape since his last visit in 2013, such as a new airport terminal, a new highway from the airport to town, and more greenery in the city.
Relations are strengthening, he added, like their close economic ties. Both countries also cooperate through exchanges for officials, education, tourism, community service and cultural exchanges. For instance, Vietnamese performers put up shows at Chingay Parades, and Singapore's cultural troupes also performed at Vietnam's Hue Festival.
Mr Lee highlighted the launch of the Vietnamese language version of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs which was done earlier on Thursday, and said it was a meaningful date to choose as it is the second anniversary of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death.
"Mr Lee would have been very happy to see this close friendship between our countries and leaders flourishing beyond him, and developing from the foundations that he laid.
"I look forward to continuing to strengthen our friendships and cooperation, as we strive to improve the lives of our people," he said, before raising a toast to Mr Phuc and his wife, the people of Vietnam, and the friendship between Vietnam and Singapore.
Mr Phuc also paid tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew in his speech, calling him "an excellent strategist of the Singaporean people and also a long-time friend of Vietnam".
"We will always remember that during the early days of Vietnam reform, it was (Mr Lee) who was very persistent in giving Vietnam valuable and sincere advice that inspired Vietnam to reach its success today," he said.
Extending a warm welcome to his counterpart and the Singapore delegation, he said: "As Hanoi is still wrapped in the mild chill of early Spring, your visit brings to us the warm breezes of friendship from our Singaporean brothers and sisters, like a tail wind that further propels our countries' strategic partnership forward."
He added: "We value our friendship with Singapore and we shall protect and nurture that friendship not only for our generation but as a legacy for those to come."