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Najib in Singapore for leaders' retreat
THE Singapore government is said to have decided on which of three possible locations to site the Republic's terminal station for the proposed high-speed rail link with Malaysia. An announcement is expected when the two countries' leaders meet here this week.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is due for a two-day visit, will have a retreat with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday.
At a joint press conference after their meeting, Mr Lee is likely to reveal where Singapore intends to build its terminal station, having announced last year that there were three options: Tuas West, Jurong East, and the city centre.
Malaysia has already confirmed that its terminal will be in Bandar Malaysia, about 5km from the landmark Petronas Twin Towers in the heart of the country's capital Kuala Lumpur.
The Bandar Malaysia project is a planned 200-hectare mixed development that will sit on land in an existing military airbase in Sungai Besi.
The plan is to complete the mammoth rail project, estimated at 320-340km long, by 2020. Some sources, however, told The Business Times that it could bust that deadline by two years.
Once the train service starts, passengers will be able to travel between Singapore and KL in just 90 minutes, compared to about 4-5 hours by car.
At the previous retreat in Putrajaya last year, the two prime ministers also said that their countries were exploring a new initiative: a single border checkpoint with both Singapore and Malaysia housing their Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complexes at one location.
Mr Lee's last meeting with Mr Najib was a week ago in KL and Langkawi, when Malaysia hosted the Asean Summit meetings.
At the opening of the new chancery of the Singapore High Commission in KL, Mr Lee said: "If we can get the high-speed rail going and running, this will be a very important project which will foster closer ties between our peoples. Then we can come up, have lunch, and go back down to Singapore again."
Singapore-Malaysia bilateral links are strong, and this will be the sixth retreat between Mr Lee and Mr Najib since their first one back in 2007.
According to a statement from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday, the annual retreat is a "key bilateral platform" for the prime ministers to drive relations forward.
Mr Najib will be in Singapore together with his wife Rosmah Mansor and a high-level delegation comprising many members of his Cabinet and senior officials.
Mr Lee's team of ministers will include Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean.
The Singapore leader will host a private dinner for Mr Najib and their wives on Monday evening. The retreat proper begins on Tuesday, with the prime ministers and their delegations meeting for bilateral discussions on various issues.
After the retreat, Mr Najib is due to deliver the keynote address at the Economic Society of Singapore's annual dinner at Shangri-la Hotel, an event that Mr Lee will also attend along with many policymakers, economists, business leaders and academics.
This visit will be Mr Najib's second to Singapore in six weeks. He was previously here in late March to pay his respects to the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House.