Tourism on agenda for Luxon in Singapore

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has a Singaporean street food breakfast with local social media...
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has a Singaporean street food breakfast with local social media influencer Aiken Chia. Photo: RNZ
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is confident New Zealand's relationship with Singapore will remain strong after the leader of that country resigned just hours after a joint statement.

Luxon met Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong overnight, and the pair announced a further elevation of the Enhanced Partnership between the two countries.

Lee had made strong statements about the Middle East tensions, saying while it was not close to a world war it was a troubled situation that could not be solved by smaller countries like New Zealand and Singapore, but that failing to push for peace would signal that "the only way is the way of the sword" and would lead to "calamity for everybody".

Luxon had earlier talked up the prospects of greater cooperation on defence - including the possibility of freeing up New Zealand airspace for drone testing - and their agreement confirmed the resumption of operation Thunder Warrior, a live firing training exercise for Singaporean artillery to be hosted in New Zealand.

Lee confirmed his resignation shortly afterward. Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong Shyun Tsai is to take over the role on May 15.

"Nothing happens in Singapore without a plan," Luxon said when asked about the timing on his second day in the city.

"It speaks to the depth of trust that we have between the two countries that what was such a momentous day for them politically, the prime minister was very generous in the sense of he wanted to have our visit ... announce his retirement.

"An hour after the retirement, I was in a meeting with the deputy prime minister Lawrence Wong, someone who I've actually got to know fairly well, second time I've met with Lawrence, and he'll be an outstanding prime minister of Singapore as well."

He said defence, trade and security were all "very integrated agendas" and he was confident in the strength of the "sophisticated, deep" relationship between the two countries under Wong.

After the heavily political and geostrategic meetings of the previous day Luxon shifted gears to business and tourism, joining local social media influencer Aiken Chia for some local street food as part of a hawkers' breakfast function.

Luxon said Aiken was "someone who is a big influencer here in Singapore, who is a big fan of New Zealand, and making sure that we actually are putting a positive presentation of our country as ambitious, aspirational, optimistic, positive, you know - the place that you want to come and visit."

He said while it was important to answer questions from the media, "actually also communicating directly to people about what's going on and what we're doing as a government and how I'm wanting to lead and what we're doing I think is actually important".

He was uncertain how many people his office employed for social media content creation.

"Oh, I dunno, I couldn't tell you but it's not heaps ... we've got a pretty small team and they've been very efficient."

Shoring up relationships and promoting New Zealand as a place for business and travel is a key component of his trip through Southeast Asia, particularly given the turbulent times.

Luxon continues his trip with a business-heavy day in Singapore before flying to Thailand.