50-year ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit Reinforcing Golden Friendship, Opening Golden Opportunities in New Period

9:18:14 AM | 12/25/2023

The official trip to participate in the 50-year ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit and associated bilateral activities in Japan from December 15-18, 2023, led by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and the high-ranking Vietnamese delegation, concluded successfully with a consistent and important message: "from the heart to the heart," "from action to action," and "from emotions to effectiveness."

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio welcomes Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to the Commemorative Summit for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation in Tokyo, Japan

This trip held important significance for Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, operating on both multilateral and bilateral fronts within a distinctive context. Notably, Vietnam and Japan recently elevated their diplomatic ties to a "Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia and the world" during President Vo Van Thuong's visit to Japan in November. Additionally, ASEAN and Japan formalized a comprehensive strategic partnership at the 26th ASEAN-Japan Summit in Indonesia in September 2023. Both Vietnam and ASEAN initiated diplomatic relations with Japan exactly half a century ago in 1973.

Golden time - golden friendship - golden opportunity

The 50th ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit holds particular significance, occurring during a period characterized as a "golden time," with a focus on "golden friendship and golden opportunities." The summit's catchphrase encapsulates the unique moment it signifies. Specifically, ASEAN and Japan mutually recognized and underscored the importance and value of their relationship, positioning it as one of the most dynamic, substantive and effective in ASEAN's foreign relations.

Through a comprehensive review and strategic orientation of ASEAN-Japan cooperation, coupled with an analysis of global and regional situations, leaders coined the terms "heart-to-heart partners across generations" and "Innovative co-partners for the future economy and society" to define the nature of their relationship.

Japan's commitment to establishing a partnership for co-creating the future, with a substantial aid of ¥40 billion for people-to-people exchange programs over the next decade and an additional ¥15 billion for researcher exchange programs and joint international research initiatives, garnered high praise from ASEAN. Furthermore, a pledge to mobilize US$35 billion over the next five years from public and private funds to foster cooperation, support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and address climate change was emphasized.

Common ground was achieved on many regional and international issues of mutual concern. The leaders reaffirmed the importance of upholding international laws, notably the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), emphasizing peaceful dispute resolution for maintaining peace, stability, security, safety, freedom of navigation, and aviation in the East Sea. Japan expressed support for ASEAN's initiatives to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) and expedite the formulation of an effective and efficient Code of Conduct (COC) in accordance with international laws, particularly UNCLOS 1982.

The summit concluded with the adoption of the "Joint Vision Statement on ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation: Trusted Partners" and its implementation plan, laying the foundation for the forthcoming execution of the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, in his address, accentuated that the relationship with Japan stands out as one of ASEAN's most successful ties. Amidst unprecedented global and regional challenges, he advocated for strengthened cooperation, positioning the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Strategic Partnership as an emblem of international solidarity and cooperation. Drawing upon three profound lessons from the past 50 years, he outlined three major directions for ASEAN-Japan relations to play a positive role in shaping a regional environment characterized by peace, stability, mutual development, and win-win cooperation. These directions encompassed reinforcing coordination, building an open, inclusive, rules-based regional structure with ASEAN at its core, investing in human factors for development, and fostering socio-cultural and people-to-people exchanges within the framework of the ASEAN-Japan "heart-to-heart partnership."

Prime Minister Chinh emphasized the importance of enhancing connections in the economy, trade, and investment as key drivers for the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. He advocated for increased infrastructure connectivity, especially in strategic areas, and expanded collaboration in emerging fields, including innovation, digital transformation, green economy, circular economy, knowledge economy and smart agriculture.

Leaders from ASEAN countries and Japan at the Commemorative Summit for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation in Tokyo, Japan 

Materializing Vietnam-Japan new “comprehensive strategy” cooperation framework

This is the first official visit by a Vietnamese senior leader to Japan since the elevation of bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia and the world only two weeks prior. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh's presence in Japan for a major international conference marked the second such visit in 2023 and marked the sixth encounter between the two Prime Ministers since 2021. During this visit, Prime Minister Chinh engaged in nearly 30 meetings with Japanese political and economic circles.

The itinerary included significant engagements such as meetings with the Emperor and Empress of Japan, talks with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, discussions with the Speakers of the House of Representatives and the House of Councilors, receptions for two former Japanese Prime Ministers, and attendance at the Japan-Vietnam Parliamentary Friendship Alliance. Additionally, Prime Minister Chinh met with the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, held discussions with long-time friends of Vietnam, visited Gunma Prefecture, and privately met with governors of Aichi, Niigata, Yamanashi, Kanagawa and Tochigi prefectures.

Prime Minister Chinh participated in four seminars, forums and conferences with major Japanese businesses, addressing topics such as economics, investment, finance, green transformation, digital transformation and semiconductors. He also held meetings with key Japanese organizations, including the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). During the Vietnam-Japan Economic Forum, attended by over 500 Japanese businesses, Prime Minister Chinh urged Japanese companies to increase investment in Vietnam, emphasizing the government's commitment to supporting and facilitating effective and sustainable business investment.

The visit resulted in the exchange of more than 30 cooperation documents worth nearly US$3 billion between authorities and businesses of the two countries. Notably, an investment certificate was granted for an approximately US$2 billion LNG power plant in Thai Binh province. The two nations signed three notes of exchange on ODA cooperation exceeding US$200 million, bringing Japan's total ODA value to over ¥100 billion (nearly US$800 million) in 2023, the highest since 2017.

Both sides affirmed their commitment to the rapid implementation of new Japanese ODA-funded projects, with a focus on five key areas crucial to Vietnam's development, including the construction of a high-speed railway from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. The visit also explored opportunities for cooperation in emerging fields like energy transformation, digital transformation, semiconductors, and innovation. Japanese businesses expressed strong interest in Vietnam's policies and needs, demonstrating their dedication to investing and cooperating with Vietnam in these new areas.

During the visit, Prime Minister Chinh held bilateral meetings with leaders from Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Thailand, discussing ways to deepen and enhance relations in various fields, including connectivity, economic cooperation and tourism.

This official visit was a significant and meaningful high-level activity, concluding 2023 -the year commemorating the 50th anniversary of Vietnam-Japan diplomatic relations. The two countries successfully organized around 500 events in celebration of this milestone. Simultaneously, it marked one of the final important high-level foreign affairs events of 2023, a notably successful and exciting year for Vietnamese diplomacy.

By Quynh Anh, Vietnam Business Forum