HANOI: Singapore and Vietnam on Wednesday strengthened bilateral ties with the elevation of relations between the two countries to a strategic partnership.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung announced this after their hour-long discussion in Hanoi.
Mr Lee’s official visit to Vietnam to mark 40 years of close ties kicked off with a tri-service guard of honour and a recital of both countries’ national anthems.
Under the wide-ranging strategic partnership, Singapore and Vietnam will enhance cooperation in several areas through high-level exchanges and direct communications between the leaders.
The strategic partnership also looks to explore ways to enhance economic cooperation between both countries, such as creating a favourable investment climate for companies from both sides to invest in each other's countries.
Singapore is currently Vietnam's second largest investor.
The two countries also recognised the benefits accruing from strengthened air links as Mr Lee saw air services as another sector that can contribute to growth between Singapore and Vietnam.
He said: "We envisage progress in air services where we can increase air traffic between our countries and also from our countries to the rest of the world."
Mr Lee also said Singapore banks hope to set up subsidiaries in Vietnam and contribute to the country's financial sector.
He added that Singapore is also happy to provide technical assistance to Vietnamese officials in the area of financial services.
“In financial services, Singapore will be happy to provide technical assistance to our Vietnamese counterparts while Singapore banks hope to set up subsidiaries here and contribute to Vietnam's financial sector," said Mr Lee.
Mr Dung said he welcomed Singapore banks to expand operations in his country.
Mr Lee said he is pleased with the current state of cooperation between the two countries and that economic ties are robust.
Bilateral trade and investments are growing steadily and the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Parks are thriving.
Mr Lee said he is glad that they have contributed to Vietnam's development.
On ASEAN, both leaders supported a cohesive and integrated ten-member grouping which enjoys good relations with external partners.
Singapore and Vietnam share an interest in a stable and peaceful Southeast Asia.
The priority is to work with the other member states to ensure freedom of navigation, maritime security and safety in the region, including in the South China Sea.
Mr Lee said: "We believe that freedom of navigation is absolutely essential and that has to be preserved whatever the outcome of the discussions and deliberations on the issue of the South China Sea.
"We believe that full implementation of the DOC (Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) and at the same time negotiations to conclude a Code of Conduct are essential to managing this problem in the foreseeable future.
“We believe that ASEAN has an important role to play in this respect because this is something happening in ASEAN's neighbourhood. And to be an effective organisation, ASEAN must be able to exert a constructive influence in the management of such disputes."
Moving forward, both countries have tasked their Ministries of Foreign Affairs to be the focal points to implement the agreement and to review the partnership periodically.
To commemorate 40 years of close ties, both countries jointly issued a stamp.
The theme selected for the stamp is "Junglefowl" – Singapore was represented by the red junglefowl and Vietnam by the grey peacock pheasant.
Both species of junglefowl are significant to the respective countries. - CNA/gn
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