‘You’ve been a good friend, both to Singapore & to me personally’: PM Lee on his working relationship with former Japan PM Shinzo Abe


Mr Shinzo Abe passed away after being shot at a rally on Jul 8. He was 67 and was Japan’s longest serving prime minister.

He was known for his signature reforms, such as Abenomics, Womenomics and Society 5.0 and returned stability to Japan.

In a Facebook post earlier today, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed his shock and described the shooting as a “senseless act of violence”.

After hearing about Mr Abe’s death, PM Lee updated his post: “Received with a heavy heart the news that Mr Abe has succumbed to his injuries and passed on. This is a deeply shocking and distressing incident. I offer my sincere condolences to Mrs Abe Akie, Mr Abe’s loved ones, and the people of Japan.”

PM Lee and Mr Abe had a long and fruitful working relationship for almost a decade during the two terms when Mr Abe was in office.

In his letter to Mr Abe in Sep 2020, PM Lee wrote that he was sorry to learn of Mr Abe’s retirement from office. 

“It has been my privilege to have worked with you for almost a decade, in your two terms in office,” PM Lee said.

Here’s a look back on the good relationship between the two countries and leaders.

1. Japan-Singapore New-Age Economic Partnership Agreement

The agreement, which came into effect on Nov 30, 2002, is Singapore’s first free-trade agreement (FTA) with a major trading partner and Japan’s first-ever FTA. According to Entreprise Singapore, the agreement eliminates tariffs for 92.1 per cent of Singapore’s exports to Japan.

Mr Abe and PM Lee completed a review of the agreement before Mr Abe retired.

2. Japan Creative Centre

Mooted by Mr Abe during his first term, the Japan Creative Centre in Singapore was built. An agreement was reached between the two nations to set up the centre in Singapore as a base for “disseminating information on Japan’s culture and technologies. It is the first of its kind outside Japan.

3. Frequent visits

In his speech that commemorated 50 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Singapore in 2016, PM Lee said that he visited Mr Abe nine times since 2013, signalling the close working relationship between the two leaders.

They also have had multiple exchanges of visits, including Mr Abe’s Official Visits to Singapore in 2013 and 2014.

Mr Abe also took the time and effort to attend the State Funeral of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the Lying in State of former President Mr S R Nathan.

4. Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership

PM Lee said that Singapore is grateful for the “decisive leadership” Mr Abe exercised as a signatory to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a new partnership that formed after the United States withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

5. A good friend

In his 2020 letter, PM Lee wrote that Mr Abe has been a good friend – both to Singapore and him.

“You have been a good friend, both to Singapore and to me personally. I remember your gracious hospitality on my last trip to Osaka for the G20 Summit, particularly the wonderful dinner and kyogen performance at the Osaka Geihinkan, against the beautiful backdrop of the Osaka Castle.”

Cover photo credit: PM Lee Facebook page.