A Strong Basis for the Future of Japan-Vietnam Relations

The significant accomplishments achieved in 2023 will establish a strong basis for the development of Japan-Vietnam relations in the years ahead.

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2023 is a significant year for Vietnam-Japan relations as it commemorates 50 years of strong friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

The diplomatic ties between Vietnam and Japan were officially established on September 21, 1973. Throughout the years, the relationship between the two nations has undergone remarkable development, despite various challenges and global changes. Today, Vietnam and Japan are important partners, sharing common strategic interests.

Ambassador Pham Quang Hieu spoke during President Vo Van Thuong’s visit to officials and employees of the Vietnamese Embassy in Japan and the Vietnamese community, on November 27, 2023. (Photo: Nguyen Hong)

Motivation follows motivation

According to the Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan, in 2023, the two countries upgraded their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia and the world during President Vo Van Thuong’s official visit to Japan (November 26-30, 2023). This upgrade lays a solid foundation for the two countries to further enhance their relationship amidst the rapid changes in the global and regional landscapes.

Shortly after the upgrade, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh attended a special ASEAN-Japan summit in Tokyo from December 15-18. This event provides favorable conditions for further bilateral cooperation.

Ambassador Pham Quang Hieu stated that the visit has generated a strong impetus for enhancing cooperation between the two countries in the fields of economics, trade, investment, and labor, taking their relationship to a deeper and more substantive level. In late May, Prime Minister Kishida invited Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to visit and attend the expanded G7 Summit in Hiroshima (May 18-21), which demonstrates Japan’s recognition of Vietnam’s role in the region and the world.

On the Japanese side, the visits to Vietnam by Crown Prince Akishino, Senate President Otsuji Hidehisa in September 2023, Foreign Minister Kamikawa in October 2023, and various Japanese governors have deepened the mutual understanding and respect at all levels, contributing to the promotion of bilateral relations.

Highlights in various fields of cooperation

Ambassador Pham Quang Hieu expressed his delight in the progress made in all areas of bilateral relations. In terms of trade and investment, the two countries achieved a record import-export turnover of USD 44 billion in 2023, with Japan investing USD 3.2 billion in Vietnam.

People-to-people exchanges, educational and cultural cooperation have also been emphasized and promoted. The Vietnamese community in Japan comprises over 520,000 people, including nearly 40,000 students. In 2023, both countries organized large-scale cultural exchange activities to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations. Festivals such as the Vietnam Festival in Japan, the Vietnam Festival in Kanagawa, Saitama, Aichi, and Nagoya, the Japan Festival in Vietnam, the Kanagawa Festival in Hanoi, and the Hokkaido Festival in Ha Long attracted hundreds of thousands of attendees from both countries. The opera “Princess Anio” performed during the anniversary received high praise, contributing to strengthening the sincere sentiments, trust, and mutual understanding between the two peoples.

Exchanges and cooperation among localities were also remarkable in the past year. More than 40 Vietnamese local leaders’ delegations visited Japan, while over 10 Japanese delegations traveled to Vietnam. Many localities in both countries have established close relations and signed cooperation agreements in various fields, creating new momentum for bilateral relations.

Tourism experienced a strong recovery. In 2023, more than 550,000 Vietnamese tourists visited Japan, surpassing the record of 495,000 in 2019 (pre-Covid-19 pandemic). The number of Japanese tourists visiting Vietnam was equivalent.

“It can be said that 2023 has opened a new chapter in the Vietnam-Japan relationship, laying the foundation for many years to come,” Ambassador Pham Quang Hieu remarked.

Outlining the scope of cooperation

Building on the positive momentum of bilateral relations, Ambassador Pham Quang Hieu has set the goal for 2024 to closely coordinate with ministries and units of both countries to implement high-level agreements reached during President Vo Van Thuong’s visit (November 2023) and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s visit (December 2023). The aim is to concretize the content of the Joint Declaration, upgrading Japan-Vietnam relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia and the world. This will propel the two countries’ relationship to a new phase of development that is more substantive, effective, and extensive.

The Ambassador emphasized the importance of strengthening trustworthy, effective, and substantive political relations, as well as forging close relationships between senior leaders, sectors, and people of both nations.

The Vietnamese Embassy in Japan will focus on economic diplomacy, enhancing the quality and depth of economic cooperation. Efforts will be made to promote investment, trade, and technology transfer, as well as foster cooperation in new areas such as digital transformation, green transformation, and high-quality infrastructure. The Embassy will also collaborate in training and developing high-quality human resources to contribute to the socio-economic development of both countries.

Citizen protection will remain a top priority in 2024. The Embassy aims to build a united and strong Vietnamese community in Japan. “We will also promote cooperation in security, defense, science and technology, education and training, culture, and people-to-people exchanges, with a particular emphasis on enhancing relations between localities in both countries, thereby consolidating the foundation of the comprehensive strategic partnership,” Ambassador Pham Quang Hieu affirmed.

Standing united in all circumstances

On the first day of 2024, Japan experienced a severe earthquake with its epicenter in the Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa province, resulting in extensive damage to people and property. Ambassador Pham Quang Hieu acknowledged Japan’s preparedness to respond to major earthquakes and their meticulous disaster preparedness, which once again amazed the world with their discipline, composure, and resilience.

Even in the face of extreme adversity, even in the hardest-hit areas, there were no reports of chaos or disorder. Despite losing their homes, electricity, water, and food shortages, people dutifully followed the instructions of local government authorities and remained calm. Instead, they extended help to one another, overcoming the disaster together.

“This is a crucial factor in minimizing human and property damage, enabling the government and people to swiftly recover from the aftermath and return to normal life,” Ambassador Pham Quang Hieu stressed.

On the afternoon of January 1, a working group was established under the Ambassador’s direct supervision to coordinate the situation of the Vietnamese community affected by the earthquake. In the past few days, the working group closely monitored the situation, provided regular updates on relevant information, and visited and encouraged those affected in Ishikawa province.

The Embassy cooperated with both central and local governments, as well as companies, to support affected Vietnamese workers. It worked alongside Japanese authorities in prioritizing people’s safety and well-being. The Embassy also supported businesses and localities in helping Vietnamese workers stabilize their work and life. The Vietnamese community in Japan organized practical activities to aid those in earthquake-affected areas.

Valerie Mai