Vietnam - Japan: Half-century of Strong Friendship, Companionship toward the Future

11:28:16 AM | 12/7/2023

President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Vo Van Thuong, his spouse and a Vietnamese high-level delegation paid an official visit to Japan from November 27-30, 2023 at the invitation of the state of Japan.

This is the first official visit to Japan by President Vo Van Thuong as the Head of State and the fourth visit to Japan by Vietnamese presidents since the two countries established foreign relations.

Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong delivers a speech at the Japanese National Diet

Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia and the World

During this visit, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and President Vo Van Thuong attended the official welcoming ceremony, inspected the guards of honor, held talks, delivered a joint press speech and witnessed the signing of cooperation documents. President Thuong also made a policy speech at the Japanese National Diet and visited Fukuoka Prefecture.

Based on the outstanding achievements of bilateral relations in all fields, with open cooperation potential and solid trust in the good future of bilateral relations, to meet the aspirations of the two peoples, President Vo Van Thuong and Prime Minister Kishida agreed to issue a joint statement on upgrading Vietnam-Japan relations to “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia and in the World", thus affirming the desire of the two countries to lift cooperation in all fields to new highs and expand new areas of cooperation.

In the joint statement, the two leaders emphasized fundamental principles guiding the Japan-Vietnam relationship, including respect for the United Nations Charter, adherence to international law, and mutual respect for each country’s political systems, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The two leaders shared the view that their frequent contacts, exchanges, and cooperation at high and all other levels and channels of the two countries have been maintained and the dialogue mechanisms between ministries and agencies have been expanded and effectively implemented. The two leaders also agreed that cooperation in economy, trade, investment, social development, defense and security, culture, education, tourism, agriculture, environment, healthcare, labor, information, communication, transport, construction, justice, people-to-people exchange, and cooperation between localities has been deepened with increasing substance and effectiveness.

President Vo Van Thuong highly appreciated the active contributions of Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) and corporate investments to the course of Vietnam’s national construction and to stable, comprehensive socioeconomic development in the past years. He affirmed that Japan will continue to be a leading economic partner of Vietnam.

The two leaders expressed their delight at deepened people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. The Vietnamese community in Japan has been growing rapidly to become the second largest overseas foreign community, totaling 520,000 expats. The number of Japanese nationals in Vietnam has also increased rapidly to 22,000 people.

The two leaders affirmed their mutual determination to bolster the substantive and effective defense cooperation on the basis of the Joint Vision Statement on Japan-Vietnam Defense Cooperation towards the next decade in April 2018, the Memorandum on Bilateral Defense Cooperation and Exchanges in October 2011, and other instruments between the two defense ministries.

They shared a common awareness of the urgency in promoting large economic projects, including Japanese ODA and FDI-funded projects, affirming that they will specifically identify these projects as soon as possible to study the possibility of establishing a coordination working group between the two governments in Vietnam to accelerate the implementation of these large projects.

The two leaders confirmed the launch of a new phase of the Japan-Vietnam Joint Initiative early next year. During this process, the two leaders confirmed to revise the Joint Initiative so as to meet the new challenges both countries are facing based upon the principle of equal partnership, and strengthen cooperation in human resource development, culture, tourism, local exchanges and people-to-people exchanges.

The two leaders confirmed that the two countries will promote cooperation in the fields of smart power grids, smart cities, power market development, and localization of the energy industry; and further promote cooperation in the development of the digital economy and innovation in that field, thereby creating momentum for rapid and sustainable economic development.

After the talks and the release of the joint statement, President Thuong and Prime Minister Kishida witnessed the signing of cooperation documents between Vietnamese and Japanese agencies such as the memorandum of understanding on cooperation in energy transformation between the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan; the note on exchange of projects to improve the capacity of preserving and restoring cultural heritages at Vietnam National Museum of History; the note on exchange of projects to improve medical recovery capacity and ensure medical security during and after the COVID-19 pandemic in Vietnam; the project on equipment provision for the Coast Guard Professional Training and Development Center; and the agreement on operation support for the Vietnam Space Center and effective operation of LOTUSat-1 satellite in 2024-2029 between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology. On this occasion, Japan's Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) sent the two leaders the policy advisory report “Vietnam 2045”.

Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Hoang Dao Cuong and Japanese Ambassador to Vietnam Yamada Takio exchanged notes on a project to enhance the preservation and restoration capabilities of cultural heritages at the National Museum of History

Advancing to the future and into the world together

This visit to Japan by President Vo Van Thuong took place as many activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations (September 21, 1973 - September 21, 2023) were being coordinated between Japan and Vietnam

The bilateral relations of over half a century, especially after being upgraded to "Extensive Strategic Partnership" in 2014, have achieved many strong, outstanding and comprehensive progress steps with high political trust, in all fields from economy, trade, investment, defense and security, culture and education, agriculture, health, labor, people-to-people exchange and local cooperation.

In 2023, the two countries organized nearly 500 practical and meaningful activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, helping strengthen and deepen the friendship and mutual understanding between peoples.

Japan is the first G7 country to recognize Vietnam's market economy status and has twice invited Vietnam to attend the Expanded G7 Summit. Vietnam - Japan relations feature high political trust, strengthened regional connectivity and shared common views on many regional and international cooperation issues.

In his speech at the Japanese National Diet, President Vo Van Thuong emphasized that Japan is always a trusted partner and close friend who always supports and helps Vietnam on the path of national construction and development and contributes to peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world. Despite being geographically distant, the two countries have many similarities and connections in culture, history and people. Such similarities, plus longstanding strong traditional exchanges between the two peoples for thousands of years, are likened to the glue that binds the friendship and mutual understanding between the two peoples.

“If there is a very general, concise and emotional sentence about the relationship between our two countries, I would say it is “heavenly destined”, he emphasized.

Currently, Japan is Vietnam's most important economic partner, ranking first in ODA aid, second in labor cooperation, third in investment and tourism, and fourth in trade. The two-way trade value reached nearly US$50 billion in 2022, of which Vietnam exported US$24.2 billion worth of merchandise to Japan and imported US$23.4 billion from Japan.

By Quynh Chi, Vietnam Business Forum