TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday (Oct 23) referred to Singapore President Halimah Yacob as a “role model” for being the Republic’s first female Speaker of Parliament, and then President.
His remarks came as he reiterated his commitment to ensuring that Japan is a society where women can shine, a statement by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
The two leaders met at a 15-minute closed-door bilateral summit at the Akasaka State Guest House on Wednesday morning. Madam Halimah, who is in Tokyo for the formal enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito on Tuesday, thanked her hosts for the honour of being able to witness the proclamation.
She offered her condolences for the extensive damage wrought by Typhoon Hagibis, which left more than 80 dead earlier this month, and praised the stoic resilience of the Japanese to pick up the pieces, the Japanese statement said.
Mr Abe also expressed his heartfelt gratitude for Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s “thoughtful” condolence message earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Mr Abe pointed to the common issues and policies between Japan and Singapore in calling the Republic a valuable partner. This includes their vision of building smart cities, their challenge in improving the birth rate, and their goal of mitigating problem gambling even as casinos are built under integrated resorts.
He also noted their ongoing efforts in infrastructure cooperation in third countries through such initiatives as the Japan-Singapore Partnership Programme for the 21st Century (JSPP21).
Madam Halimah concurred, adding that Singapore hopes to work together with Japan to tackle such issues as ageing and the development of smart cities.
Also on their agenda was trade, with Mr Abe expressing gratitude for Singapore’s support for mega trade deals like the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership and the 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Mr Abe also brought up North Korea as he sought Singapore’s understanding and cooperation for the early resolution of the abduction issue.
Japan wants full accountability from Pyongyang on its citizens who were kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. Five of the 17 officially recognised victims were returned in 2002, while North Korea says eight have died and the remaining four had never entered the country.