Your Excellency Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information, Communications and Arts,
Members of Parliament, Mr Charles Chong and Mr Alvin Teo,
Major General Ng Chea Khern, Chief of Air Force
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great honour that I welcome you all this evening to the celebration of the 76th birthday of His Majesty, the Emperor of Japan.
This year marks two special anniversaries of His Majesty, namely the 20th anniversary of His Majesty’s accession to the throne, and the 50th anniversary of the wedding of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Since the Enthronement in 1989, the Emperor, together with the Empress, have been discharging a wide variety of official duties, performing acts in matters of state, and receiving foreign guests as well as making domestic and overseas trips to name a few. He is widely beloved and respected as the “symbol of the State and of the unity of the people”.
The Emperor gives the highest priority to the happiness and wellbeing of his people. He has visited devastated areas in the aftermath of natural disasters such as rainstorms, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, including the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995. His visits and kind words brought great comfort to the victims in the afflicted areas. It is indeed His Majesty’s compassion that endears him to the people of Japan.
This year also marks a historic milestone in the relationship between Singapore and Japan. Following their Majesties’ visit to Singapore in 2006 in commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of our diplomatic ties, President S R Nathan paid a State Visit to Japan in May this year. This was the first state visit to Japan in history by the President of Singapore, and President Nathan was the 49th State Guest that His Majesty received during his 20-year rein. President Nathan visited Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima, and he was warmly welcomed by the people of Japan. In Hiroshima, he became the first foreign dignitary who listened personally to the narratives of the atomic bomb victims. The historic visit to Japan by President Nathan demonstrated the reliable, vibrant and mature relationship of our two countries and thus proved to be a great success.
In September, Dr. Yukio Hatoyama was elected as Prime Minister of Japan and formed a new government, opening a new chapter in the history of Japan’s democracy. While it is a dramatic change in Japan’s political scene, robust relations between our two countries continue to flourish. In less than three weeks after taking office, Prime Minister Hatoyama welcomed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Tokyo. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the first Asian leader to meet Prime Minister Hatoyama in Tokyo. The both prime ministers had a good meeting and agreed, among other things, to further promote bilateral cooperation in science and technology and in education.
In this connection, I am happy to note that the Japan Creative Centre (JCC) officially opened in Singapore just three weeks ago. Prime Minister Hatoyama who came to Singapore for the APEC Leaders’ Summit joined Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in gracing the opening ceremony of this Centre. The JCC is indeed the product of Japan-Singapore joint efforts and cooperation. With innovation and tradition as its main theme, the JCC aims to showcase pop culture and cutting- edge technologies of Japan, promoting deeper understanding between not just the people of Japan and Singapore, but also the people of South East Asia and beyond.
During his recent stay in Singapore, Prime Minister Hatoyama also made his major policy speech at the inaugural Distinguished World Leaders Lecture of the RSIS. In his speech, Prime Minister Hatoyama declared the new commitment to Asia of his new government and set forth his vision of an East Asian Community. The concept behind his vision stems from the philosophy of “yu-ai” or “fraternity”. He proposed to promote concrete cooperation in a broad range of areas such as EPA/FTA, climate change, disaster management and maritime safety. This would be based on the principle of “open regional cooperation”. In this respect, he made a specific reference to Singapore; “Singapore provides a great example of how openness to the world can lead to a dynamic and prosperous society”.
“Open regionalism” has been a key word for APEC as well, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. I applaud Singapore for its skilful chairmanship of a very successful APEC 2009. The APEC economies now account for more than 52% of the world’s GDP. APEC is reinforcing the grouping’s stronghold on the world stage. With APEC capable of working out new growth strategies as well as regional economic integration for the future, we are poised for a leading role in the global economy. Succeeding Singapore, Japan is to chair APEC next year. We are faced with many challenges, but we will spare no effort in making a productive and successful APEC in 2010.
Ladies and Gentlemen, on this auspicious occasion, a lavish spread has been prepared for you. We have an exquisite selection of fruits, pears, melons and strawberries air flown from Japan, as well as prime Wagyu beef, Kurobuta pork and the fresh sushi with rice from Japan to tantalise your taste buds. We also present for your tasting a fine collection of Sake from various parts of Japan. I hope you enjoy the taste of Japan.
With this note, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, I have the honour to propose a toast to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Singapore.
－Vocal performance of the National Anthem of Singapore by Sachiyo－
To the President