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Visit of Japanese PM Fumio Kishida to Vietnam

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Vietnam (April 30-May 1) after completing his visit to Indonesia and his predecessor Prime Minister Suga had visited Vietnam in 2020.

Vietnam has emerged as one of the important promising economies of Southeast Asia and also one of the destinations for Japanese defence exports. This visit comes nearly five months after the visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to Japan in November 2021.

During the visit the Vietnamese Prime Minister has interacted with Kishida and expressed deep appreciation of Japanese investment in Vietnam and the support Japan has extended to Vietnam in terms of South China Sea crisis. During the visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister to Japan strategic issues such as free and open indo Pacific and developing defense trade were discussed in detail. Vietnam is keen to develop its science and technology infrastructure, artificial intelligence, robotics, and develop its space assets too. During the last year visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister several agreements were signed which included transfer of technology, developing joint ventures, and inviting more Japanese investment in Vietnam.

It has been seen that the interactions between the two countries have been primarily based on developing necessary infrastructure so that Vietnam can be an alternative investment destination, development of health and related facilities, research in renewable energy sources, and looking for better avenues for promoting oil and gas exploration. The current visit of Japanese Prime Minister was aimed to look into cooperation between the two countries in areas such as development of technology parks, software industry, export processing zones, integrating Vietnam into Japanese trade networks, reviving the Comprehensive and Progressive Transpacific Partnership(CPTPP), and look into various possibilities in terms of skill management, vocational training, and promoting tourism between the two countries. For many Japanese even during the air bubble agreement Vietnam was one of the most favoured destinations for holidays and travelling. Given the fact that most of the western economies are still languishing in the after effects of COVID-19 and the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine is likely to pressurize the oil and gas industry across the world, it is seen that the two countries would work on electric vehicles, research in fuel cells, managing emission norms, and look for better utilization of energy resources.

One of the major challenges for Vietnam is to maintain regular electricity supply in South China Sea islands and Japan has been very active in developing resources within islands for power generation and also distillation of water. Japan has also signed an agreement with India for power generation in Andaman and Nicobar islands, and therefore it would be prudent for Vietnam to seek Japanese expertise in those areas. Japan, on the other hand, has been looking for investment in countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos because of the fact that its investment in China have reached a threshold and after COVID-19 diversification of investment has been the priority of many developed countries.

There is also no denying of the fact that Chinese aggressive posture in East China Sea and South China Sea are a matter of concern for both Japan and Vietnam, and as a result of which there is need for better coordination and cooperation between the two countries. Vietnam is also looking for extensive military modernization and, in this regard, it is looking for Japan for high end technology products particularly in the field of encryption, secured communications, advanced maritime surveillance aircraft, and sophisticated underwater sonar systems. During the visit of Vietnamese premier to Japan the two countries have tried to explore cooperation in areas such as space and cyber security. This visit of Japanese Prime Minister explored other related areas both the countries can work together.

Both countries require better trade avenues and therefore the implementation of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and promoting regional trade is a priority for both the governments. Strategic thinkers have also proposed that there can be a viable trilateral between India, Japan and Vietnam which can explore areas such as development of high-end technology products, software technology, computer systems, high end processing machines, packaging and cold chain technologies, and developing digital connectivity across regions.

If one looks into Japanese foreign policy there has been increasing references about opening new frontiers of Japanese diplomacy and making Japan more secure. One of the major cornerstones of Japanese regional diplomacy has been developing diplomatic relations with Asia and developing economies such as Vietnam. Japan has been closely observing those countries which have been successful in containing COVID-19 impact and require medical and health support for research against this deadly virus. Economic security has also become one of the important aspects for Japan’s foreign policy and has been trying for developing a free and fair economic order with developing economies.

Japan has also been supporting regional initiatives for achieving sustainable development goals in areas such as sustainable marine life, limiting marine plastics, conservation of biodiversity parks, and promoting gender equality. Vietnam’s initiative in the Indochina region has been appreciated by Japan and it has been looking for better investment avenues in other countries such as Laos and Cambodia. Japan’s economic security requires diversified investment in those area where there is a cheap labour and better possibility of land acquisition for setting up manufacturing units. Japan is looking for exploring Vietnamese market and also diversifying the trade basket so as to develop better trade synergies between the two countries.

Japan has established its diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1973 and would be celebrating 50 years of diplomatic ties in the year 2023. The strategic partnership which was signed between the two countries in 2014 has also completed nearly eight years. Japan has been one of the largest official development assistance provider to Vietnam. The trade volume between the two countries had reached US $42.7 billion and Japanese investment in Vietnam is of US $64.4 billion. Korea and Singapore are the top two investors in Vietnam followed by Japan.

During the visit of Suga to Vietnam in 2020, the two sides had signed an agreement on economic and security cooperation and it was seen as a major step in the field of security for both the countries. There has been agreement between both the countries on the importance of maintaining peace and security as well as promoting freedom of navigation in the contested waters. Vietnam has also actively supported Japan’s leadership in the region and has been looking for diversification of supply chains. Vietnam and Japan have been seen as natural partners for promotion of regional security, trade and investment, innovation and research, and promoting peace and prosperity in the region.

By Pankaj Jha – ModernDiplomacy.eu – May 2, 2022

Visit of Japanese PM Fumio Kishida to Vietnam
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