TOKYO: Singapore President Halimah Yacob - who is in Japan this week to attend the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito - said that she is looking forward to strengthening bilateral relations with Japan in the years to come.
Madam Halimah, who returns to Singapore on Thursday, was among the more than 2,000 head of states invited to witness the centuries-old ceremony.
Naruhito, 59, acceded to the throne in May after his father, Akihito, became the first monarch to abdicate in two centuries.
“In his enthronement speech, Emperor Naruhito spoke about continuing his father’s legacy of bringing good to the Japanese people and of Japan playing a role in the international community,” Mdm Halimah said in a post on Facebook.
“This is very heartening, because amidst the challenging economic landscape, we need like-minded partners who believe in a rules-based, multilateral trading system,” she added.
“I look forward to working with the Emperor to further strengthen Singapore-Japan relations in the years ahead.”
During her trip, Mdm Halimah also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Akasaka State guest house, where they “reaffirmed the excellent bilateral relations” between the two countries, and discussed areas for future cooperation, including "ageing populations, smart cities, and infrastructure development in third countries", she said.
“We also agreed on the importance of reinforcing the rules-based multilateral trading system, and that the two countries should continue working closely together for the early conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP),” she wrote on Facebook.
Mdm Halimah also conveyed her condolences for the loss of life and destruction caused by Typhoon Hagibis earlier this month.
In the evening, the president and her spouse, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, attended a banquet hosted by Mr Abe and Mrs Abe at Hotel New Otani Tokyo, said Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
On Wednesday morning, Mdm Halimah met up with Mr Yasuhisa Shiozaki, chairman of the Japan-Singapore Parliamentary Friendship League.
“President Halimah expressed appreciation for the members’ efforts in promoting inter-parliamentary exchanges that contributed to the strong Singapore-Japan relationship,” said MFA.
“They exchanged views on the common challenges facing Singapore and Japan, and the need for both countries to work together to support free trade and to tackle ageing population, technological disruption, and climate change,” it added.
She also visited Japanese electronics and IT giant NEC’s Future Creation Hub, which showcases the company’s advanced information and communications technologies, including AI and biometric identification solutions.
“Those areas are important and relevant for the growth of both Japan and Singapore. NEC is an example of continued linkage of Singapore and Japan, of trade and investment,” Mdm Halimah told reporters.
The president viewed exhibits that included a demonstration of biometric data-based identification for smooth and fast travel, safe and secure data exchange that protects the privacy of consumers, and a future shopping and distribution experience.
Earlier that day, she mingled with Singaporeans and their families.
She said to them: “More than five decades ago, Japan was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Singapore. Today Japan is Singapore’s third-largest foreign investor.”
An important pillar of Singapore-Japan relations is the close people-to-people linkages between both countries.
“(I am) glad that the Singaporean community has built close friendships and networks in Japan,” she said.
With additional reporting by Michiyo Ishida