TOKYO: Japan and Singapore will establish “a sub-Cabinet level, vice-ministerial level” committee “within this fiscal year” to explore cooperating on transport and infrastructure, including Singapore’s high-speed rail project, said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday (Sep 28).
Speaking at a summit meeting welcoming Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is on a four-day official visit to Japan, Mr Abe said that the committee will involve “the relevant ministries and agencies of both countries”.
“I strongly hope that there will be progress in the collaboration to introduce our Shinkansen bullet train to your country,” he said.
In reply, Mr Lee said that it was Singapore’s wish “to have the best technology for the high-speed rail between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur”, and that Singapore is working with the Malaysian government to ensure a “rigorous, objective, and high-standard” process for tender in order to get the best possible train set for the high-speed rail project. He noted that the Shinkansen’s "long record of safety, of excellence, would stand it in good stead in the bid".
BUILDING UP CHANGI AND NARITA AS HUB AIRPORTS
Besides land transport, Mr Lee said the committee will also be reviewing air and sea issues. “On sea, we discussed LNG bunkering; on air, we discussed air services. I pointed out that with the 2020 Olympics coming up, this is a timely moment to increase capacity - not only between Singapore and Japan, but also further beyond, to further destinations in both directions in order to build up Singapore Changi and Tokyo Narita into hub airports.”
“(Expanding the bilateral air services agreement) is an issue that has been under discussion for some time, and Prime Minister Abe agreed with me that we should accelerate discussions or progress on this matter,” he added.
Mr Abe and Mr Lee also announced that Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam will make a state visit to Japan in November, at the invitation of the Japanese government.
Mr Lee, whose official visit coincides with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, was also hosted to a banquet by Mr Abe at the Akasaka State Guest House on Wednesday evening.
The close bilateral ties, Mr Lee said, were developed by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who met nearly every Japanese Prime Minister from Eisaku Sato in the 1960s, to Mr Abe today.
“Mr Lee encouraged Japan to play an active role in the region - to turn the page on history and fulfil its potential in peace with its neighbours, said Mr Lee. He also received one of Japan's top honours on behalf of his late father.
Today, Japan is one of the top tourist destinations for Singaporeans, and is home to 1,500 Singaporeans, PM Lee said.
“I think the latest manifestation of Japanese soft power is Pokemon Go. It’s even become almost as popular Super Mario,” quipped the Prime Minister, referencing Mr Abe’s cameo as Super Mario at the Rio Olympics closing ceremony.
“While we have achieved much together in the last 50 years, there is potential to do much more,” he added.
“We should work together, deepen our economic cooperation, foster regional integration, to support security and stability in the region, and to create prosperity and better lives for our people.”