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Japan offering sustained support

Released at: 09:15, 07/10/2018 Vietnam - Japan Relations

Japan offering sustained support

H.E Nguyen Quoc Cuong, Ambassador of Vietnam to Japan

Ambassador of Vietnam to Japan, H.E Nguyen Quoc Cuong, shares his thoughts on 45 years of relations between Vietnam and Japan.

2018 marks 45 years since relations were established between Vietnam and Japan. What is your view on economic relations between the two? 

Vietnam and Japan established diplomatic relations on September 21, 1973. Over the past 45 years, especially since Vietnam introduced its reform process (doi moi) in 1986, the relationship has developed rapidly and comprehensively and been a “bright spot” in Vietnam’s foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, diversification, and multilateralization of international relations. 

Japan has actively supported Vietnam’s renovation and integration process over the last few decades. Its leaders have repeatedly affirmed that a more stable and developed Vietnam, with a greater role and position in the region, is in line with Japan’s interests.

Japan was the first G7 country to welcome the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam on an official visit, in 1995, the first in the group to establish a strategic partnership with Vietnam, in 2009, the first to recognize market economy status for Vietnam, in 2011, and also the first to invite Vietnamese leaders to attend the G7 Outreach Meeting, in 2016.

Japan has always been an important partner in economics, trade and investment, making key contributions to Vietnam’s socioeconomic development. Japan is the country’s largest ODA provider (at approximately $30 billion since 1990), the second-largest investor (with nearly 4,000 projects and total committed capital of $55.4 billion), the third-largest travel partner (with 800,000 Japanese visitors coming to Vietnam in 2017), and the fourth-largest trade partner, with $33.5 billion in 2017.

Japanese ODA in Vietnam focuses on fields such as infrastructure, human resources training, energy, the environment, and climate change adaptation, among others, which are all important in Vietnam. Key traffic infrastructure built with Japanese ODA has contributed to changing the face of and promoting socioeconomic development in different localities. For example, Thai Nguyen province in Vietnam’s north had only attracted some $100 million in FDI by 2014, but after a 61-km highway built with Japanese ODA and connecting it with Hanoi was opened in January 2014, foreign investment soared to more than $7 billion. 

Over the years, Japan has actively supported Vietnam in implementing its Strategy for Industrialization as well as the Joint Initiative between the two countries on improving Vietnam’s investment environment. Since 2014, the two countries’ efforts in high-quality agriculture has been considered by both as being a new focus of mutually beneficial cooperation.

What have been the most important developments in diplomatic relations between the two countries over the last few years?

There have been a series of high-level visits over the last three years. There were visits to Japan by Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, in September 2015, State President Tran Dai Quang, in June 2018, and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, in May 2016 and June 2017. Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan also visited Japan in August 2015 as Vice President of the National Assembly. On the Japanese side, the first visit to Vietnam by the Emperor and Empress took place in March 2017, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited in January and November 2017. These visits, as well as regular meetings between the two countries’ leaders on the sidelines of international and regional conferences, have contributed to strengthening trust and set the orientations for the development of bilateral relations.

There are also closer exchanges between localities and socio-political organizations from the two countries. Each year, the Vietnamese Embassy in Japan welcomes and supports 20 or 30 delegations from localities in Vietnam visiting Japan for investment promotion and also hosts about half a dozen delegations of governors from Japanese prefectures and dozens of businesses when they visit Vietnam seeking opportunities for cooperation and business. 

Many localities in Japan have selected Vietnam as one of the priorities of cooperation in their local economic revival. The Governor of Mie Prefecture said that in the past two or three years he has led large delegations of businesspeople to Vietnam because surveys show the country is of interest to local enterprises. Nearly 40 cooperative documents have been signed between local Vietnamese and Japanese enterprises.

Many localities in Japan have formed parliamentary coalition groups with Vietnam as well as local friendship organizations. In recent years, many coalitions of parliamentarians and friendship associations have been established along with visits by Vietnamese ambassadors to prefectures such as Miyagi, Gifu, Aichi, and Kagoshima. This shows that the local people of Japan have a deep affection for the country and people of Vietnam. These organizations conduct many effective activities to promote exchanges with local Vietnamese in many specific fields.

Human resources development has become a key pillar of cooperation between the two countries. What can you tell us about cooperation in this field?

In 2012, the total number of Vietnamese in Japan stood at some 50,000, but by the end of 2017 the number had risen to 262,000 and by mid-2018 to 300,000, for a six-fold increase in the last six years. The number of Vietnamese students in Japan is more than 75,000 and the number of trainees is more than 140,000. Vietnamese are living, working and studying in all cities and prefectures in Japan.

With Japan’s population aging and decreasing in number, a source of foreign trainees, especially from Vietnam, is an important supplement for Japan’s lack of human resources in almost all occupations. 

Most governors and enterprises I meet greatly appreciate the quality of Vietnamese trainees and workers. Heads of vocational schools, colleges, and universities all value the academic strength of Vietnamese students. The hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese who come to Japan to work and study is truly a symbol of the growing cooperation between the two countries. This is also a valuable asset; a bridge for bilateral ties for decades to come.

Vietnam and Japan share many points of strategic interest in maintaining peace, stability and cooperation in the region for the development of each country, don’t you agree?

On the occasion of the APEC Summit in November 2017, Vietnam, Japan and a number of other countries persistently urged the signing of the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) and are now actively participating in negotiations over the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which promotes trade liberalization in the region.

Regarding the East Sea issue, Japanese leaders have repeatedly asserted Japan’s support for Vietnam’s stance against tensions and militarization, leading to a change in the status quo in the waters. They also support the guarantee of freedom of navigation, maritime and aviation safety, security, and the non-use of force or threat of force, the full respect of diplomatic and legal processes, compliance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, and the development of an effective and legally-binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). Japan is also actively supporting Vietnam in improving its maritime law enforcement capacity and is willing to share its experience in developing a maritime strategy.

The relationship and “Extensive Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia” between Vietnam and Japan is in its best stage of development at present and the potential for further development is enormous. The two sides should continue to make more efforts to bring the relationship into a new phase of development in a real and effective manner, for the benefit of the people of the two countries and for peace, stability and cooperation in the region.

What count among the embassy’s activities?

One of our “specialties” is Vietnamese festivals, which are held every year in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan. Each festival has attracted tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of people. Five Vietnamese festivals in Kanagawa Prefecture saw 400,000 people attend, exceeding the expectations of both countries. 

This year, to mark the 45th anniversary of relations, Governor Kanagawa Prefecture, Mr. Yuji Kuroiwa, will hold a Vietnam Festival in the prefecture, in early September, and in Hanoi in November. Approximately $400,000 will be spent on organization, of which the prefecture’s contribution is $200,000 while $200,000 will be mobilized from other sources. 

There are also campaigns promoting “Cat Chu” mango, dragon fruit, and other agricultural products and goods of Vietnam in supermarkets around Japan. Vietnamese dragon fruit currently occupies top position in the Japanese market, with annual sales of about 1,000 tons. The embassy also organizes Vietnamese Weekdays at supermarkets such as AEON, or directs delegations of supermarket businesses and merchants for Japanese supermarkets when they are considering visiting Vietnam. 

With the number of Vietnamese people in Japan now approximately 300,000, the embassy cooperates with the two Consulates General in Osaka and Fukuoka to unify policies and measures. It has also guided and supported the strengthening of Vietnamese organizations in Japan, such as the Vietnamese Association, the Business Association, the Youth Union, and the Vietnamese Buddhist Association, as well as Vietnamese communities in various regions and localities. 

The embassy also plans to set up a database on the Vietnamese community in Japan and identify Vietnamese focal points in all localities to promptly inform the community of any relevant guidelines.

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