Toast speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Lunch in honour of Japan PM Kishida Fumio (June 2022)

SM Lee Hsien Loong | 11 June 2022

Transcript of toast speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Official Lunch in honour of His Excellency Kishida Fumio, Prime Minister of Japan on 11 June 2022.

Your Excellency Kishida Fumio, Prime Minister of Japan

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

A very warm welcome to Prime Minister Kishida and the Japanese Delegation. Just two weeks ago, I called on Prime Minister Kishida in Tokyo, when I attended the 27th Nikkei Conference. We had a productive discussion, and I thank Prime Minister Kishida for hosting me and my delegation. Today I am glad to have the opportunity to reciprocate his warm hospitality, and to carry our conversation further.

This is Kishida-san’s first official visit to Singapore since becoming Prime Minister, but he has been to Singapore many times. This morning, we looked at an old picture – one of Mr Kishida’s previous visits from 2010 – of a younger Mr Kishida at Marina Bay, taking a photograph at the Merlion Fountain. That is why, this morning, I invited the Prime Minister back to Marina Bay for breakfast. We had local breakfast delights – roti prata, kaya toast and tau huay. And now for lunch we are having local fusion food – such as chilli crab cake and fish with spicy coconut sauce. I hope he is enjoying the Singapore cuisine, and that it will encourage him to come back to visit again.

Singapore and Japan are longstanding partners, with substantial cooperation in many areas. We share common interests in maintaining regional peace and stability, and upholding an open and inclusive regional architecture. We have joined hands on many multilateral initiatives, including the RCEP, CPTPP and most recently the IPEF.

Despite the COVID pandemic, our bilateral relationship has continued to make progress. Just this year, we have signed several agreements to further our collaboration in the economic and defence spheres, as well as on current issues like digitalisation and sustainability.

As we emerge into the post-COVID era, I look forward to even closer bilateral cooperation. The first step is to restore travel between our countries, and to revive people-to-people ties. Starting yesterday, Japan has allowed tourists from certain countries to enter Japan for small group tours. I am glad that Singapore has been included as one of the source countries. Japan has traditionally been a top travel destination for Singaporeans. Before the pandemic, every year, nearly half a million Singaporeans would visit Japan to savour Japanese cuisine, experience the rich culture and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Therefore, you can imagine how eagerly many Singaporeans are anticipating a further reopening of borders and restoration of flight connectivity. I also look forward to Japanese tourists coming to Singapore again. Before the pandemic, about 800,000 Japanese tourists visited us every year. They savoured our hawker delights, soaked in our vibrant multiracial culture and heritage, and visited iconic landmarks such as Orchard Road and the Marina Bay Sands. We hope that very soon we can welcome them back.

The friendship between Singapore and Japan has flourished over the past 55 years, but there is potential for us to do much more. We should continue to work together to deepen our economic cooperation and foster regional integration and stability. So as to create a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future for our peoples.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, may I now invite you to join me in a toast to: their Majesties – the Emperor and Empress; the good health and success of Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and his delegation; the continued peace and prosperity of Japan; and the enduring friendship between Singapore and Japan. Cheers.