Transcript of remarks by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Joint Press Conference with Japan Prime Minister Kishida Fumio on 11 June 2022.
Prime Minister Kishida,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very happy to welcome the Prime Minister to Singapore.
Prime Minister Kishida and I had very fruitful discussions this morning. We reaffirmed the excellent state of bilateral ties and committed to further strengthening our partnership, to build upon the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations last year.
International and Regional Developments
Singapore and Japan have a longstanding and multi-faceted partnership. We share an interest in upholding an open and inclusive regional architecture. We have joined hands on many multilateral initiatives, including the RCEP, the CPTPP and most recently the IPEF.
The Prime Minister gave an insightful speech at the Shangri-la Dialogue yesterday evening. He set out Japan’s vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” and how Japan intends to contribute more to regional peace and stability.
Singapore welcomes efforts by Japan and other countries to strengthen engagement with ASEAN in the areas outlined in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. We appreciate Japan’s affirmation for ASEAN Centrality, and we look forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Dialogue Relations next year.
As I said at the recent Nikkei Conference in Tokyo, Singapore looks forward to Japan playing a larger role in the region, contributing not only to the economic vitality of the Asia Pacific, but also to the peace and stability of the region.
With the passing of the years and generations, and in the new strategic environment, Japan should consider how best it can come to terms with the past and put to rest long outstanding historical issues. This will enable Japan to play a greater role in regional security cooperation, and to participate fully in building and upholding an open and inclusive regional architecture.
The Prime Minister and I also exchanged views on other international and regional developments. On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Singapore position is clear and principled. We are a staunch supporter of international law and the UN Charter, which prohibits acts of aggression against a sovereign state. That is why we have strongly condemned the unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine, and imposed targeted sanctions on Russia.
On the situations in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, Singapore hopes that all parties will exercise restraint and maintain dialogue, in order to preserve regional peace and stability. The issues are complex, and unlikely to be resolved soon. But they continue to be managed peacefully and in accordance with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
Bilaterally, Singapore and Japan enjoy strong cooperation across the political and economic domains, as well as in non-traditional areas like cyber-security, environmental issues and biomedical research.
Our economic ties are robust. Trade grew by 8.6% last year. Japan was Singapore’s top Asian investor in 2020.
Our Defence Ministers have just signed an enhanced Memorandum on Defence Exchanges. We have also commenced discussions on an Agreement on the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology.
Our people-to-people relations are also strong. Japan is a key business and leisure destination for Singaporeans, and vice versa. We welcome Japan’s easing of its border measures, and hope it will pave the way for a further reopening to international travel and a full restoration of flight connectivity.
We also discussed two issues which I had raised with the Prime Minister when we last met in Tokyo and that is a review to the JSEPA and our flight connectivity with Japan, particularly flights to Haneda Airport.
I thank the Prime Minister for agreeing to have our officials talk about these matters and engage, and I hope that they will lead to us being able to update the JSEPA, so as to bring it on par with what has been agreed in the CPTPP and later, trade agreements.
Also on air connectivity, that we will be able to enhance flight connectivity with Haneda Airport because there is a lot of pent-up demand for travel between Singapore and Japan. And once the tourism restrictions and entry restrictions into Japan are lifted, I have no doubt that the demand will be very strong.
New Areas of Cooperation
The Prime Minister and I also discussed new areas of cooperation.
We launched the Japan-Singapore Economic Dialogue recently, to advance cooperation in such new areas, for example green economy and digitalisation. Building on our common stake in a more sustainable future, we signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on low-emissions solutions earlier this year.
Our two countries are also like-minded partners in developing smart cities and promoting digitalisation. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of digital solutions. There are many synergies between Prime Minister Kishida’s Digital Garden City Nation initiative and Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative.
Beyond our bilateral cooperation, we also welcome Japan to participate in a broader regional Digital Economic Partnership Agreement.
Therefore, I am happy that our relations are growing steadily in scope and substance. I look forward to working closely with Prime Minister Kishida to deepen collaboration between Singapore and Japan, and take our partnership to greater heights.
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