Friday, 5 February 2016

Japan confers top honour on Lee Kuan Yew, the Grand Cordon of the Order of Paulownia Flowers

By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 4 Feb 2016

Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has been given one of Japan's top honours for foreign leaders.

He will be posthumously conferred the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference on Tuesday.

"Mr Lee strived to strengthen relations with Japan and was successful in building a friendship between the two nations," Mr Suga told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

The Japanese Embassy in Singapore announced on its website that the conferment of the award was backdated to March 23, 2015, the day Mr Lee died.

A spokesman for Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is deeply honoured and appreciates Japan's decision to confer the award on Mr Lee. He added: "This is in recognition of Mr Lee's contributions to the development of relations between Singapore and Japan over several decades."

Both nations share close ties, and celebrate their 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the state funeral for Mr Lee, who died at age 91.

Mr Lee was given the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun in 1967. Previous foreign recipients of the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers include former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh and former US Secretary of State George Shultz.

Dr Lam Peng Er, a Japan expert at the National University of Singapore's East Asian Institute, said Mr Lee is seen as a "sage-like" figure in Japan and was often consulted for his honest critiques.

He said Singapore-Japan ties were "future-oriented" and added of Mr Lee: "He was the eldest statesman in Asia and welcomed Japan's economic, cultural and diplomatic presence in South-east Asia."

Dr Naoko Kumada, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said: "The Japanese learnt from his memoirs the tragedy that Mr Lee and the people in Singapore experienced during the Japanese Occupation and Mr Lee's determination never to forget that experience.

"Despite this, he took a practical and open approach towards Japan after he became prime minister. He built a positive relationship between Japan and Singapore by learning from Japan's success in industrialisation from the 1970s and built a strong economic partnership between the two countries that has become today's friendship."

Founding PM Lee Kuan Yew will be posthumously conferred one of Japan's top honours for foreign leaders.
Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

* PM Lee Hsien Loong receives top Japanese honour on behalf of Lee Kuan Yew

Top Japanese honour for Lee Kuan Yew
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 29 Sep 2016

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday said Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was "one of the greatest minds that Asia has brought to the world in our time".

"I would like to pay my utmost tribute to the extremely important role that he played for more than half a century for the peace and prosperity for the Asia-Pacific region and of the entire world," he added.

Mr Abe was speaking at a ceremony to posthumously confer Japan's highest honour for a foreign dignitary on the late Mr Lee, who died in March last year.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is in Tokyo for a four-day official visit, received the prestigious Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers on behalf of the late Mr Lee.

PM Lee yesterday thanked Mr Abe for "making a special effort" to attend the state funeral last year.

He said: "From the first days of our independence, Mr Lee adopted a forward-looking and constructive approach to bilateral relations."

Mr Lee was also "a great admirer of Japan's work ethic, discipline and productivity", he added.

At a dinner banquet hosted by Mr Abe last night, PM Lee noted that it was because of Mr Lee that relations between Singapore and Japan have progressed steadily. The two countries now enjoy substantial economic ties and intimate people-to-people relations.

Japan is one of the most popular travel destinations for Singaporeans, and the Japan Creative Centre in Singapore has also deepened the appreciation for Japanese culture, PM Lee said, as he offered a toast.

"I think the latest manifestation of Japanese soft power is Pokemon Go. It's even becoming almost as popular as Super Mario," he said to laughter from the guests, many of them Japanese leaders active in forging economic, political and cultural ties with Singapore. PM Lee was alluding to Mr Abe's appearance as the Nintendo game character at the Rio Olympics closing ceremony.

Mr Abe, too, observed that Singapore has lapped up Japanese pop culture. He noted that a Hello Kitty cafe opened at Changi Airport in May, and said: "Now, every time when people visit Singapore, the latest trend is to first be greeted by Hello Kitty - before they even have the chance to meet the Merlion!"

MFA Spokesman's Comments in response to media queries on Japan’s announcement that the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers would be posthumously conferred on Mr Lee Kuan Yew
PM Lee Hsien Loong's official visit to Japan, 26 to 29 September 2016

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