|Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan Phạm Quang Hiệu. — VNA/VNS Photo|
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Việt Nam and Japan, Vietnamese Ambassador to Japan Phạm Quang Hiệu talks to a Vietnam News Agency reporter in Tokyo about recent achievements in cooperation between the two nations, areas of strength to be further promoted, and explored the prospects for future collaboration.
How do you evaluate the achievements of cooperation between Việt Nam and Japan over the past 50 years? What are the strengths that need to be promoted?
Over the past 50 years, the friendship and cooperation between Việt Nam and Japan have thrived and grown comprehensively across various domains, serving as a shining example on the global stage. This robust partnership aligns with Việt Nam’s foreign policy of independence, autonomy, diversification, and multilateral international relations. Japan currently stands as the largest official development aid (ODA) contributor, second in labour cooperation, third in investment and tourism, and fourth in trade for Việt Nam.
Our diplomatic, political, security, defence, economic, educational, and cultural ties are progressively deepening and solidifying, supported by extensive people-to-people exchanges and strengthened local cooperation. Japanese ODA plays a pivotal role in developing key infrastructure projects, fostering sustainable socio-economic growth, and facilitating the transfer of advanced technology and the training of high-quality human resources in Việt Nam.
Japan has over 5,000 valid projects in Việt Nam with a total investment exceeding US$70 billion, ranking third among 143 countries and territories investing in our nation. Conversely, Việt Nam has invested in 106 projects in Japan, amounting to around $19.5 million in registered capital.
Our bilateral trade is also flourishing, with total import-export turnover approaching $50 billion in 2022, solidifying Japan's position as Việt Nam’s fourth-largest trading partner. The development of human resources constitutes another vital aspect of our cooperation, with nearly half a million Vietnamese residing in Japan, making them the second-largest foreign community in the country. They contribute significantly to filling labour shortages across various professions.
Additionally, local-level exchanges, socio-political collaborations, and people-to-people ties are strengthening, with more than 40 pairs of Vietnamese and Japanese localities signing cooperation agreements. Notably, several Japanese regions have established parliamentary alliance groups and friendship organisations dedicated to individual Vietnamese localities, contributing to enhanced exchanges across multiple sectors.
In summary, Việt Nam-Japan relations are currently at their zenith, deserving of an extensive strategic partnership based on mutual sincerity, affection, and trust, aimed at peace, cooperation, regional development, and global prosperity. This is the strength that both countries must continue to nurture.
How do you envision the potential for cooperation between the two countries in the future, both in bilateral relations and in coordination on the international stage and within multilateral forums?
While 50 years is not an extensive period in the context of the nearly 1,300 years of historical interactions between our peoples, it has witnessed a remarkable, comprehensive, and rapid development of friendly cooperation between Việt Nam and Japan. Over this time, we have evolved into highly significant partners, sharing numerous common strategic interests.
Our relationship framework has continually advanced, transitioning from a "trusted, long-term stable partner" (2002) to “Towards a strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia" (2006), then to a "strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia" (2009), and ultimately an "extensive strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia" (2014). The two countries consistently exchange high-level delegations and convene meetings on the sidelines of international and regional conferences, thereby strengthening the trust between our leaders and setting the course for effective development across all sectors in our bilateral relations.
The two sides also cooperate closely and effectively at international and regional forums such as the United Nations, ASEAN+ conferences, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC), and Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), contributing increasingly actively to peace, stability, and development in the Asia-Pacific region, in line with Việt Nam’s foreign policy of autonomy, diversification, and multilateralisation. Japan holds the distinction of being the first country in the Group of Seven (G7) to welcome the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Việt Nam (1995), the first G7 nation to establish a strategic partnership with Việt Nam (2009), the first G7 member to recognise Việt Nam’s market economy status (2011), and also the first G7 country to invite Vietnamese leaders to attend the expanded G7 Forum (2016). Consequently, there remains ample room for both countries to further enhance their relations in all dimensions.
How did the two sides coordinate with each other to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Việt Nam and Japan in both countries?
The cultural, historical, and long-standing exchanges between the peoples of Việt Nam and Japan have forged a close and intimate bond that transcends time. Generations have nurtured this relationship, resulting in the deep connection we share today. Our peoples consistently show empathy, support, and solidarity during challenging times. For instance, when the historic earthquake and tsunami struck Japan's northeast region in March 2011, causing substantial damage to lives and property, a widespread donation campaign was initiated in every province and city across Việt Nam. A multitude of Vietnamese citizens joined in to support the Japanese people in their time of need.
In turn, the Vietnamese people deeply appreciate and are grateful for the invaluable and timely assistance provided by the Japanese people during our struggle for independence and freedom, as well as during the đổi mới (renewal) period of socio-economic development. Most recently, as the COVID-19 pandemic posed significant challenges in Việt Nam, the Japanese Government and people were the first to provide substantial aid, including more than 7.4 million vaccine doses and various medical supplies and equipment to assist in Việt Nam’s pandemic prevention efforts.
With the COVID-19 situation now under control in both countries, exchanges and cooperation have resumed and gained momentum. Việt Nam and Japan are well-positioned to further strengthen people-to-people interactions and establish a sustainable foundation for future relations. Numerous cultural, tourism, and culinary exchange events are gaining popularity in both nations' localities. Significant festivals, such as the Vietnamese Festival in Japan, the Vietnamese Festival in Kanagawa, and the Japanese Festival in HCM City, have become annual gatherings that attract a wide range of participants from both countries. These events significantly contribute to fostering mutual understanding, trust, and exchange between our peoples. The highlight of this celebratory year will be the grand-scale commemorative events hosted in each country.
In 2023, both sides have and will continue to organise diverse activities to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Vibrant high-level exchanges and numerous cultural events are expected to take place. These events hold the promise of delivering the transformative experiences that both Vietnamese and Japanese people eagerly anticipate, such as the Việt Nam Festival in Japan and the opera "Princess Anio," which reenacts the story of Princess Ngọc Hoa's marriage to the Japanese merchant Sotaro Araki.
What do the two countries need to do for bilateral relations to continue developing in the future? Please share your perspective on the focus of cooperation between Việt Nam and Japan in 2023 and beyond.
The economies of Việt Nam and Japan complement each other exceptionally well, with vast untapped potential for collaboration. There is ample room to enhance our cooperation and strengthen economic ties, particularly in the post-COVID-19 era. Japan plays a pivotal role as a partner for Việt Nam in realising three strategic breakthroughs, achieving the development objectives outlined by the 13th National Party Congress, promoting industrialisation, modernisation, building an independent, self-reliant economy, and deepening international integration.
In the coming years, our focus should be on advancing the implementation of high-level agreements. This entails the following key areas:
Firstly, we should continue reinforcing the foundation of trust in our political relations by facilitating visits and interactions at all levels, with a special emphasis on high-level exchanges. The year 2023, marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Việt Nam and Japan, offers a significant opportunity for both nations to strengthen their cooperative ties across various domains, ushering in a new era of more substantive and effective bilateral relations.
Secondly, we should leverage the complementary strengths of our two economies to enhance economic connections. It is essential to maintain Japan's position as Việt Nam’s foremost partner in ODA, investment, and trade. We should continue advocating for Japan's provision of new-generation ODA to support strategic infrastructure development, transportation infrastructure, digital transformation, climate change response, and healthcare. We should seize the opportunity presented by Japanese businesses, who view Việt Nam as an attractive destination for shifting production and diversifying supply chains. This will promote an influx of Japanese investments in Việt Nam, with a focus on attracting high-quality investments, technology transfer, and supporting Vietnamese businesses in participating in Japanese supply chains.
Lastly, we should promote cooperation in promising fields such as digital transformation, the digital economy, digital society, and green transformation. In 2023, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, we look forward to reflecting on our journey and building an even stronger foundation for the future of Việt Nam-Japan relations. — VNS