SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will visit Paris next month and take part in the French National Day parade as guest of honour - the first such distinction granted to a Singapore leader.
The visit will reaffirm excellent bilateral relations and commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) undergoing advanced jet training in France's Cazaux Air Base, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday (June 29).
This is the first time a Singapore Prime Minister will be guest of honour at the annual parade on July 14, also known as the Bastille Day parade, which marks the storming of the Bastille in 1789 during the French Revolution.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan will also attend this year's parade as guest of honour, as Japan marks 160 years of diplomatic ties with France. Last year, United States President Donald Trump was the parade's guest of honour.
The parade this year will feature a France-Singapore combined flypast. Soldiers bearing the flags of Singapore and Japan will also march alongside French troops.
The French media has reported that the flypast is expected to involve Singapore's M-346, a trainer aircraft at the Cazaux Air Base. Singapore and Japan flags will open the parade on the Champs-Elysees, a main thoroughfare in Paris along which troops will march as they make their way between two landmarks - the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde.
RSAF began training at the Cazaux Air Base in 1998. Located along the south-western coast of France about 60km from the city of Bordeaux, the base offers Singapore pilots the chance to train in an air space 32 times the size of Singapore.
The M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer that pilots train on in Cazaux is an important precursor before they go on to operate fighter jets such as the F-15SG and F-16. More than 180 Singapore pilots have undergone training at Cazaux over the past 20 years.
This year is also the Singapore-France Year of Innovation, an initiative agreed on when former French president Francois Hollande was in Singapore for a state visit last year.
Business leaders, scientists and other innovators from both sides are participating in joint events in line with the innovation theme, including a joint cultural seminar in March and an economic forum in December.