Singapore to host Asean summit this week

Region's leaders will gather for summit and meetings; Vietnam PM making official visit

In the run-up to the summit, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will head a meeting of ministers overseeing the Asean Political-Security Community. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Regional leaders will gather in Singapore from today till Saturday for the 32nd Asean Summit and related meetings, during which they will discuss the grouping's top priorities, programmes and challenges.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will chair the summit, the first meeting of Asean's top leaders in Singapore in its year chairing the group.

One of the first to arrive is Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who is on an official visit to Singapore from today till Friday at the invitation of PM Lee.

His visit comes as Singapore and Vietnam mark 45 years of diplomatic ties, and five years since their ties were elevated to a strategic partnership in 2013.

At the summit, to be held at the Shangri-La Hotel, Asean's leaders will discuss the challenges and opportunities that the grouping faces.

This will be in line with the focus on strengthening Asean's resilience and innovation this year, said the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in a statement yesterday .

As chairman, Singapore is keen to develop a network of smart cities across Asean and boost the region's cyber security.

The leaders are expected to endorse and release statements outlining their vision to make Asean more resilient and innovative. They are also likely to agree on details of the preliminary phase of the Asean smart cities network, and issue a statement on the network and on cyber-security cooperation.

The leaders will also discuss regional and international developments. These will most likely include maritime cooperation and security in the South China Sea, the security situation on the Korean peninsula, and the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

The Straits Times understands that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will not attend the summit as it coincides with his country's election, with Nomination Day on Saturday.

Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi will not make the trip either, and President Win Myint will attend instead. All the other Asean leaders are expected to be in town.

In the run-up to the summit, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will head a meeting of ministers overseeing the Asean Political-Security Community. Minister for Trade and Industry (Trade) Lim Hng Kiang will also chair a meeting of Asean's economic ministers.

Economic cooperation will be high on Mr Phuc's agenda for his first visit to Singapore since becoming Vietnam's Prime Minister in 2016. The two countries are set to ink deals in a range of fields, from fintech and banking supervision to renewable energy and trade standards.

Singapore was Vietnam's third-largest foreign investor last year, with a total of $43.2 billion worth of investment in more than 1,800 projects, including seven Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks. Vietnam was Singapore's 12th-largest trading partner last year.

Trade between both countries hit $21.6 billion last year, 8.6 per cent more than the previous year.

Mr Phuc will call on President Halimah Yacob and PM Lee, who will host him to an official dinner, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a separate statement yesterday.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline Singapore to host Asean summit this week. Subscribe