SINGAPORE – Japan and Singapore agreed Friday to strengthen economic cooperation, confirming plans to jointly promote the export of infrastructure systems to other countries.
During a meeting in Singapore, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also confirmed plans to coordinate moves in negotiating for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and another large free-trade bloc known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which encompasses East Asia.
Abe said at a joint news conference after their talks that he and Lee also agreed to strengthen cooperation between the two countries’ defense forces, especially in rear-area assistance in cases of disaster and rescue operations.
Lee said the two leaders also exchanged views on “overlapping territorial disputes,” an apparent reference to issues stemming from China’s territorial claims in regional waters.
“I expressed the hope that the countries concerned would manage these differences peacefully and in accordance with international law. . . . But I also expressed the hope that issues should not affect the overall stability of the region,” Lee said. “We all benefit from a stable Asia.”
On the TPP negotiations, which Japan officially joined earlier this week, Lee said Singapore, one of the Pacific Rim countries already in the talks, welcomes Japan’s participation.
Abe said that by promoting free-trade arrangements with Southeast Asian countries, Japan wishes to create trade and investment rules with them.
Apparently with China in mind, he also noted that Tokyo intends to strengthen ties with countries that share with it fundamental values, such as the rule of law, human rights and freedom.
Singapore is the second leg of Abe’s three-nation tour of Southeast Asia this week, aimed at deepening Japan-ASEAN ties as the prime minister engages in “economic diplomacy.” The trip is also aimed at countering China as it continues provocative activities in regional waters.
Abe also met with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden in Singapore, and plans to give a speech on his key economic policy later in the day as part of the “Singapore Lecture” series.
Abe, who held talks with Malaysia’s prime minister in the country Thursday, was scheduled to travel to the Philippines later Friday for talks with the country’s president the next day.