December 21, 2023
PHNOM PENH – Japan has pledged to provide $170 million in financial assistance to Cambodia to improve rural healthcare and various developments projects, while both countries pledged to consolidate their comprehensive strategic partnership.
The pledge came during a December 18 meeting between Prime Minister Hun Manet and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida, held on the sidelines of the Commemorative Summit for the 50th year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation and the First Asia Zero Emission Community (AZEC) Summit, in the Japanese capital Tokyo.
Cambodia and Japan upgraded their bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership this year, on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation released a statement on the outcome of Manet’s trip to Japan on December 19.
“[Manet and Kishida] vowed to work closely together to further strengthen their comprehensive strategic partnership. This should be done through concrete multifaceted cooperation projects,” it said.
“They acknowledged the importance of strengthening cooperation in various areas including the economy, trade and investment, infrastructure, defence and security, energy, digital development, demining and public health,” it added.
Manet expressed his thanks to the government and people of Japan for the their support for Cambodia’s socio-economic development.
“He also expressed his deep appreciation to Prime Minister Kishida for Japan’s pledge of a 20 billion yen [$139 million] loan to assist rural healthcare in Cambodia,” added the statement.
During the bilateral talks, Manet and Kishida witnessed the signing ceremony of several cooperation documents, as well as the exchange of notes and related documents on the extension of Japan’s grant aid to Cambodia for the implementation of three projects worth 4.3 billion yen ($31.3 million).
The ministry explained that the projects are the National Data Centre towards Promoting E-Government, the Development of a Digital Management System of Water Supply Facilities in the Metropolitan Area, and the Construction of a Hydrographic Survey Vessel for Preparing Electronic Navigation Charts.
During the talks, the two prime ministers agreed to accelerate the development of Sihanoukville Autonomous Port as a regional hub, with Manet requesting Japanese support for a proposal to develop the port into a regional logistics hub.
Kishida also presented Manet with a “70th Anniversary of Friendship between Cambodia and Japan” commemorative 5,000 riel silver coin struck by the Japan Mint – an independent, state-owned agency responsible for producing and circulating Japanese coins – based on an order from the National Bank of Cambodia.
Manet expressed his full support for three new initiatives initiated by Japan during the ASEAN-Japan commemorative summit: Heart-to-heart partners across generations, partners for co-creation of economy and society of the future, and partners for peace and stability.
Kishida’s office also released a summary of the meeting, noting that cooperation between the two countries has expanded to broader areas, including cooperation to assist with countermeasures against land mines in third party countries such as Ukraine.
It said the two leaders agreed that they will establish senior defence official talks, in addition to the senior foreign affairs official talks held in November.
The conversation also touched on the political situation in Cambodia, with Kishida stressing that Japan continues to attach importance to the democratic development of the Kingdom.
“In February next year, Japan will conduct the 6th invitation programme for young Cambodians involved in politics, from both the ruling and opposition parties. The two leaders agreed to cooperate in that area,” stated Kishida’s office.
Jean Francois Tain, Minister Delegate attached to the Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, briefed the media at Phnom Penh International Airport on December 19 upon the delegation’s return from Tokyo, noting Japan has been an active participant in the peace making process in Cambodia since the early 1990s.
“Relations between Cambodia and Japan have not seen any changes, no matter if their prime ministers have changed in the last 70 years. The unwavering friendship is not based on the character of former Prime Minister Hun Sen or incumbent Prime Minister Hun Manet, but on something deeper,” he said.
Tain explained that Japan sees Cambodia as a rapidly developing nation, with strong economic growth.
“In the last several years, Cambodia’s economy has seen strong growth, which means Japan sees us as a significant economic partner. Cambodia is also a member of ASEAN, which is a key economic pillar and very attractive to investors in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.
He also highlighted that Japanese investors are present in many countries, including China, Vietnam and Myanmar, adding that this is because profit-driven capital investment is not limited by politics, whether in a democratic or authoritarian state.