Enhanced trust key outcome of Japanese PM's Vietnam visit

By Viet Anh   May 4, 2022 | 08:00 pm PT
Enhanced trust key outcome of Japanese PM's Vietnam visit
Vietnamese PM Pham Minh Chinh (R) and Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida meet in Hanoi, May 1, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
A strong commitment to boosting trust and friendship between Japanese and Vietnamese leaders is a remarkable development amid complicated political developments around the world, experts say.

During Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's two-day (April 30-May 1) official visit to Vietnam, he held talks with all Vietnamese leaders including counterpart Pham Minh Chinh. The visit was marked by the signing of 22 cooperation agreements between the two sides.

Nguyen Quoc Cuong, a former Vietnamese ambassador to Japan, told VnExpress International that the most outstanding result of the visit was enhanced trust and understanding between the two countries.

Chinh visited Japan in November last year, and was the first foreign leader Kishida met after taking office.

Kishida's trip should be seen as a reciprocal visit, showing that two countries have regular high level exchanges, Cuong said.

Vietnamese leaders and the Japanese PM expressed their happiness as they met again as old friends, and their closeness was evident in every meeting, he said.

Chinh presented Kishida a calligraphy representing a new motto in bilateral relations in Vietnamese and Japanese Kanji that said: "Sincerity, Affection, Trust."

Kishida said he "has a predestined relationship with Vietnam." Personally, he has had a special connection with Vietnam for the last 25 years. He is also the secretary general of the Japan-Vietnam Friendship Parliamentary Union.

"I am confident that Kishida will make a more significant contribution to bilateral relations as the Prime Minister," Cuong said.

Vietnamese and Japanese leaders discussed cooperation in all aspects – political, diplomatic, economy, security, energy, agriculture and climate change response.

They talked about in-depth, comprehensive cooperation, Cuong said.

The two countries will celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations next year and Cuong believes that newly signed agreements will be implemented with determination.

The former envoy paid particular attention to three sectors: digital transformation, technology innovation and supply chain diversification. He said cooperation in these fields was timely as Vietnam and Japan were fostering post Covid recoveries and both sides will accord priority to these areas in the time to come.

In addition, Vietnamese leaders and the Japanese PM discussed the development of high quality infrastructure, a strategic issue for economic development. Hanoi asked Tokyo to provide $500 million in ODA to facilitate major projects.

The two countries also aim at boosting cooperation in human resource development. After Japan reopened its borders in March, around 10,000 Vietnamese citizens have left to work as interns there. This is of mutual benefit, given Japan's labor shortage. Therefore, this figure will continue to rise, Cuong said.

At the regional level, Japan sees Vietnam as an important partner in its Indo Pacific strategy, he said.

"This is obvious as Vietnam is among the three destinations in Kishida's visit to Southeast Asia this time."

Regional vision

Dr Stephen Nagy, senior associate professor, International Christian University in Japan, said PM Kishida’s trip, which also included Indonesia and Thailand, highlighted the importance Japan accords Vietnam and Southeast Asia in achieving its free and open Indo-pacific vision.

Although Vietnam has a different political system, Japan sees the country as a critical, comprehensive partner for strengthening intra-ASEAN integration, keeping the South China Sea free and open, arbitrated by international law and promoting development in the region.

"With that in mind, PM Kishida is continuing the investment in bilateral relations charted by former PM Abe Shinzo by placing importance on Vietnam in Japan's foreign policy outreach to Southeast Asia."

Nagy said Japan will continue to invest in Vietnam's economic development through FDI and ODA channels. An economically strong Vietnam and a strong partner for Japan will be important for building supply chain resilience and selectively diversifying away from sensitive supply chains based in China, he added.

He said that he expects Japan will open its borders to Vietnamese students, trainees and public servants to receive education and work opportunities. This, in turn, would strengthen Vietnam's development by cultivating talent and equipping Vietnamese officials with knowledge and skills to help them deal with the security and development challenges the country faces.

Another likely development is joint maritime training and cooperation to boost Vietnam's maritime domain awareness and capabilities so it can better manage pressure from countries wishing to bypass international law in the East Sea, internationally known as South China Sea, Nagy said.

He said both countries will work together to strengthen ASEAN cohesion through dialogue and diplomacy as a long term project to help the regional bloc preserve its strategic autonomy vis-a-vis great powers.

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