TOKYO: Japan-Singapore ties go “beyond politics and economics”, Japanese Emperor Akihito said on Wednesday (Nov 30), as the two countries celebrate 50 years of bilateral relations.
The Emperor and Empress Michiko held a state banquet on Wednesday evening to welcome Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who is on a state visit to Japan.
The second day of his visit kicked off with an audience with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the Imperial Palace. Dr Tan, along with his wife Mrs Mary Tan, inspected the guard of honour with the emperor and empress.
Singapore's President Tony Tan Keng Yam bows to national flags of Singapore and Japan as he reviews the guard of honour during the welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Nov 30, 2016. (Photo: AFP / Kimimasa Mayama)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe were also at the palace to greet President Tan.
In the evening, the royal couple hosted a six-course French banquet for the Singapore delegation. There were about 140 guests, including envoys, businessmen and politicians.
The emperor noted that Singapore has grown exponentially since his first visit in 1970.
"Every time we visited Singapore since then, we witnessed the dramatic progress that you made in the intervening years. Now more than half a century since Singapore's independence, you have succeeded in creating a beautiful, affluent nation," he said.
Emperor Akihito also offered his condolences over the deaths of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and former President S R Nathan, referring to them as "two figures who led Singapore in its early years" and fostering friendly ties with Japan.
During the banquet, President Tan toasted to "robust and growing ties" with Japan.
President and Emperor Akihito exchanging a toast during the State Banquet. (Photo: Facebook/Dr Tony Tan/MCI)
"Singapore and Japan share many common interests and work closely together in regional and multilateral fora to address issues of mutual interest and to tackle shared challenges," said Dr Tan.
On Thursday, Dr Tan and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will witness the signing of several agreements, including on educational exchanges and research cooperation.
Both leaders will discuss areas of cooperation between Singapore and Japan. They will also talk about regional developments and discuss ways to strengthen ASEAN's relationship with Japan.
Japan is Singapore's second biggest foreign investor behind the United States, while Singapore is Japan's largest Asian investor.