Singapore will help encourage cooperation between China and South-east Asia, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday, on the first day of his China trip.
Mr Lee was received by Premier Li Keqiang in a welcome ceremony that included a gun salute, and later met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Mr Lee told reporters that he and Mr Li discussed the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement, which the Chinese are "keen to review and improve".
"We support that and I told them that we will do our part in Singapore to help foster cooperation between China and ASEAN," Mr Lee said.
Mr Xi said of ties between the two countries: "We need to further deepen political trust, enhance pragmatic cooperation and raise our bilateral relationship to a higher level, given the new historical starting point."
Dr Song Yinghui, a researcher in South-east Asian studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told China Daily that Mr Lee's visit will help consolidate relations under China's new leadership.
Mr Lee will also visit the less-developed Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and Liaoning province.
Dr Song said: "It is rare for a South-east Asian leader to visit Xinjiang, and it shows the bilateral cooperation has been expanded from the east to the west of China."
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