PM Lee, China’s top diplomat express appreciation for mutual support during COVID-19 pandemic
SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi on Thursday (Aug 20) expressed appreciation for the mutual support between Singapore and China during the COVID-19 pandemic, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
Mr Yang, Director of China's Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs and a member of the Communist Party Politburo, is on a visit in Singapore from Wednesday to Friday.
In a meeting on Thursday, Mr Lee and Mr Yang affirmed the strong ties between Singapore and China, said MFA in a press statement. This year marks the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China.
"They also expressed appreciation for the mutual support between Singapore and China during the COVID-19 pandemic, and welcomed the continued good progress in bilateral cooperation in spite of COVID-19," the ministry said.
Mr Lee and Mr Yang also exchanged views on global and regional developments and reaffirmed the importance of strengthening cooperation within a rules-based international order, said MFA.
Mr Lee said in a Facebook post on Thursday night that he had a "fruitful meeting" with Mr Yang.
"Despite the ongoing pandemic, it’s a good feeling to return to some semblance of normalcy," said Mr Lee.
He also expressed hope that the "fast lane" arrangement for essential business and official travel between both countries will be able to be expanded to include more places "if the situation stays under control". The arrangement currently covers six Chinese provinces and municipalities.
"Our ties with China are substantial and multi-faceted. I am confident that by working with each other and with the international community, we can make more progress in the post-COVID world," said Mr Lee.
During his visit, Mr Yang also called on Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.
They discussed the "substantive and multi-faceted cooperation" between Singapore and China, said MFA.
Both countries had worked closely to combat the public health and economic impact of COVID-19, including through the "fast lane" arrangement that was launched in June, said MFA.
Mr Heng and Mr Yang agreed that both countries should work together, and with other countries, to strengthen supply chain and cross-border connectivity to facilitate economic recovery, the ministry said.
MFA said both sides are looking forward to the 16th Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation – the highest-level annual forum between Singapore and China – which will be hosted by Singapore this year.
Mr Heng said in a Facebook post on Thursday night that this was his first in-person meeting with a foreign leader since the COVID-19 situation escalated.
"As we gradually resume daily activities and reopen our borders, we can look forward to more high-level exchanges, with safe measures in place, as we strengthen our ties with countries around the world," he said.
"COVID-19 has highlighted how interconnected we are as a world. And we must work in close cooperation with all countries to overcome this pandemic and emerge stronger," he added.
During his visit, Mr Yang was also hosted to lunch by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, during which both sides discussed global and regional issues.
"They reaffirmed the importance of strengthening collaboration to deal with global challenges and to shape a more cooperative and constructive region," said MFA.
Mr Teo and Mr Yang also visited a commemorative marker for former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping along the Singapore River, as well as the Tang Shipwreck Exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum.
Earlier, Mr Yang was also hosted to breakfast by Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. Both men exchanged views on regional and international developments, and affirmed the positive momentum of bilateral cooperation, said MFA.
Mr Balakrishnan and Mr Yang also witnessed a cheque presentation ceremony for a charity project initiated by the Singaporean community in China to support poverty alleviation in Chongqing's Pengshui county.