November 29, 2023
TOKYO – Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong have agreed to upgrade Japan-Vietnam ties to a “comprehensive strategic partnership.”
The two countries on Monday adopted a joint statement and confirmed that they would deepen discussions on Official Security Assistance (OSA), a framework established by Japan, for the free provision of defense equipment and technology to Vietnam.
“We will strengthen our cooperation with Vietnam even more than before, to maintain and enhance a free and open international order based on the rule of law,” Kishida said during a joint press announcement following his meeting with Thuong at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Thuong said closer bilateral cooperation would contribute to regional peace and stability.
With China in mind
With the elevation of their partnership status, Japan is eager to make progress in its security cooperation with Vietnam, with China in mind. Many countries are approaching Vietnam — which is engaging in “omnidirectional diplomacy” — and Japan is keen to catch up.
“I will work with President Thuong to further develop friendly relations between our two countries,” Kishida said in a joint press statement following the summit meeting, expressing his desire to deepen a personal relationship of trust with the president.
Japan and Vietnam are both strongly concerned over China’s unilateral maritime expansion in the East China Sea and South China Sea. In the joint statement released Monday, the two countries prioritized security cooperation, such as for stronger maritime security and safety; the transfer of defense equipment; and strengthening supply chains.
Japan is the sixth country with which Vietnam has a top-level relationship, following the United States, China, Russia, India and South Korea. Japan hopes to utilize its OSA for Vietnam to realize defense equipment exports.
Japan must devise detailed proposals for cooperation in order to deepen relations with Vietnam.
Meeting with friendship union
During his visit to Japan, Thuong also met with former Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai, who chairs the Japan-Vietnam Parliamentary Friendship Union, and agreed to expand bilateral exchanges.
“Deepening mutual understanding and building trust is the cornerstone of Japan-Vietnam relations,” Nikai said, to which Thuong responded that “Japan is our most important strategic partner.”
Former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, LDP General Council Chairperson Hiroshi Moriyama and Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi also attended the meeting.