China's top diplomat and Singapore leaders discussed the wide-ranging cooperation between their countries, including moves to combat the health and economic impact of Covid-19, when they met yesterday.
Mr Yang Jiechi, a member of China's Politburo and head of the Chinese Communist Party's foreign affairs office, is the first top Chinese official to visit Singapore since the pandemic began.
During his three-day visit, he called on PM Lee at the Istana and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his office.
"Despite the ongoing pandemic, it's a good feeling to return to some semblance of normalcy," PM Lee said in a Facebook post, adding that he had a fruitful meeting with Mr Yang. Singapore and China are commemorating 30 years of formal ties this year.
In a statement, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said PM Lee and Mr Yang affirmed the strong ties between their countries.
They expressed appreciation for the mutual support between Singapore and China during the pandemic, and welcomed the continued good progress in bilateral cooperation despite Covid-19, it added.
Singapore and China had earlier agreed on a "fast lane" for essential business and official travel between them. It covers six Chinese provinces and municipalities so far.
"Hopefully this list will grow if the situation stays under control," PM Lee said.
In a separate post, DPM Heng wrote that his meeting with Mr Yang was his first in-person meeting with a foreign leader since the Covid-19 situation escalated. The two last met in China in May last year.
Mr Heng said the relationship between Singapore and China is "deep and multifaceted".
Both countries have worked closely to combat the public health and economic impact of the pandemic, he added.
BOOSTING TIES WITH OTHER COUNTRIES
As we gradually resume daily activities and reopen our borders, we can look forward to more high-level exchanges, with safe measures in place, as we strengthen our ties with countries around the world.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER HENG SWEE KEAT
They also agreed that both sides should work together - as well as with other countries - to strengthen supply chain and cross-border connectivity to facilitate economic recovery.
Mr Heng said the ideas they talked about can be taken up at the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the highest-level platform between the two countries.
It is chaired by DPM Heng and Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng, and it is Singapore's turn to host the annual meeting later this year.
"As we gradually resume daily activities and reopen our borders, we can look forward to more high-level exchanges, with safe measures in place, as we strengthen our ties with countries around the world," Mr Heng said.
He added that the pandemic has highlighted how interconnected the world is. "We must work in close cooperation with all countries to overcome this pandemic and emerge stronger."
Mr Yang was hosted to lunch by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, while Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan hosted breakfast.
Mr Teo said he took a stroll with Mr Yang along the Singapore River. They visited the Deng Xiaoping commemorative marker as well as the Tang Shipwreck Exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum.
Both countries need to work together more closely to strengthen cooperation in a rules-based international order, and to secure the well-being, safety and prosperity of their peoples, he added.
Dr Balakrishnan said in his post that he had a fruitful discussion with Mr Yang on bilateral ties, and discussed regional and global developments in a post-coronavirus world.
They also witnessed a cheque presentation ceremony for a charity project initiated by the Singaporean community in China to help reduce poverty in Chongqing's Pengshui County.
Mr Yang's trip to Singapore is his first visit to South-east Asia since the pandemic began. He will travel to Busan today and hold talks with South Korea's new national security adviser Suh Hoon tomorrow.