|With Official Development Assistance (ODA) allocated to Việt Nam since 1992, Japan is currently Việt Nam’s biggest ODA provider. — VNS Photo|
HÀ NỘI — September 21, 1973 opened a new page in the relationship between Việt Nam and Japan as the two countries officially established diplomatic ties in Paris.
The event was marked by a signing ceremony between then Ambassador Võ Văn Sung, representing the Government of the Democratic Republic of Việt Nam and Ambassador Nakayama Yoshihiro, representing the Japanese Government.
The document marked the beginning of the historical relationship between Việt Nam and Japan as both countries entered a new era of cooperation as friendly neighbours and sustainable and reliable partners supporting each other to grow.
Over half a century, Việt Nam-Japan relations have experienced challenging beginnings to reach their current brilliant development. The two countries have established a strategic partnership, together agreeing to bring into full play common strengths and values in various fields.
From diplomatic, economic, cultural, social to historical cooperation, Việt Nam and Japan have witnessed diverse and successful cooperation. The bilateral relationship is not merely economic and trade cooperation but also a sincere friendship built on trust, understanding and respect.
Looking back at the significant milestones of the Việt Nam-Japan relationship, after diplomatic ties were officially established in 1973, embassies were opened in each country’s capital city in 1975.
The two sides signed an agreement for the Japanese Government's war compensation in the name of non-refundable aid to Việt Nam.
However, in 1979, exchanges between the two countries were limited, and ongoing aid was suspended.
1992 was a special milestone when Japan decided to reopen aid to Việt Nam. Since then, economic, political and cultural exchanges between the two countries have been expanded with intensified understanding and trust.
The period from 1993 to 1995 marked the first visits made by the two nations’ leaders to each country.
In April 1993, Võ Văn Kiệt was the first Vietnamese Prime Minister to pay an official visit to Japan. In 1994, Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama came to Việt Nam, becoming the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit the country. One year later, Party General Secretary Đỗ Mười was the first Vietnamese Party chief to pay an official visit to Japan.
During a trip to Việt Nam made by then-Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi in April 2002, the two countries established a reliable, stable and long-term partnership.
Then “Japan-Viêt Nam Joint Initiative” was launched in 2003 to improve the business environment in Việt Nam.
In October 2006, Việt Nam - Japan relations continued to take a new step forward after the two sides signed the joint statement, "Towards a strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia".
In November 2007, on the occasion of the first State visit of President Nguyễn Minh Triết to Japan, Vietnamese President Triết and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda signed a Joint Statement "Deepening Việt Nam-Japan Relations" and “Collaboration Programme towards Strategic Partnership”.
In December 2008, Japan and Việt Nam signed the Japan - Việt Nam Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the expectation that this agreement would promote the liberalisation and facilitation of trade between the two countries in wide-ranging fields.
In accordance with the EPA, Japan has started to accept nurses and care worker candidates from Việt Nam. Japan accepted the first group in June 2014 and they started working at hospitals and nursing homes. In May 2019, the sixth group of candidates arrived in Japan.
In 2009, during his official visit to Japan, Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nông Đức Mạnh and Japanese Prime Minister Aso Taro signed a Joint Statement on "Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia".
Both sides agreed to elevate the two countries' relations to a strategic partnership. Japan was the first G7 country to establish a strategic partnership with Việt Nam at this time.
In October 2010, on the occasion of the visit to Việt Nam by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the Prime Ministers of the two countries signed the Việt Nam - Japan Joint Statement on comprehensive development of the strategic partnership for peace and prosperity in Asia.
In March 2014, during President Trương Tấn Sang’s visit to Japan as invited State guest, Japan and Việt Nam upgraded the relationship to a higher level: “Extensive Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia”.
Based on mutual trust, this framework has led to the expansion of cooperation between the two countries in fields such as security and defense, agriculture, science-technology, education-training, culture, sports, tourism, environment, local-level exchanges, and people-to-people exchanges.
In September 2015, Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng paid an official visit to Japan. The two sides issued a declaration on a common vision for Việt Nam-Japan relations.
This is considered an important milestone marking a new stage of comprehensive and unprecedented development of the bilateral relationship between Việt Nam and Japan in politics - diplomacy, economy, culture - society, defence - security, local-level exchanges, people-to-people exchanges.
In 2022, Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính and his Japanese counterpart Kishida Fumio witnessed the exchange of 22 cooperation documents between ministries, localities and enterprises in Hà Nội.
The two Prime Ministers had a joint press conference, announcing the main results of the talks, emphasising that the two sides agreed to work closely together to promote the extensive strategic partnership, for the benefit of the two peoples and for peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world.
With Official Development Assistance (ODA) allocated to Việt Nam since 1992, Japan is currently Việt Nam’s biggest ODA provider.
Japan has provided US$29.3 billion of ODA to Việt Nam, accounting for over 30 per cent of total funding from foreign donors to the country.
During the past 50 years, Japan has always been among Việt Nam’s three largest foreign investors.
Japanese projects are in 57 out of 63 provinces and cities in Việt Nam, with 5,143 valid FDI projects with registered capital of over $71.2 billion as of July 2023.
Japan is Việt Nam’s fourth largest trading partner (after China, the United States and South Korea) with a bilateral turnover of nearly $24.9 billion in the first seven months of 2023.
Japan is also the fourth largest export market of Việt Nam (after the United States, China and South Korea) and is the third largest import market of Việt Nam (after China, South Korea).
Lê Huy Hoàng, head of Japan Division, Department of Northeast Asia under Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Việt Nam and Japan. Looking back over the past 50 years, the friendship and cooperation between the two countries is at its best stage, developing strongly and comprehensively in all fields with high political trust.
Japan is currently the leading economic partner of Việt Nam, providing the largest ODA aid, the second in labour, third in investment and tourism, and fourth in trade, he said.
Local cooperation and people-to-people exchanges have been increasingly strengthened, contributing to deepening the understanding and friendship between the two peoples, he said.
Hoàng said the Vietnamese community in Japan has grown rapidly, reaching nearly 500,000 people, making it the second largest expat community, contributing positively to Japan's socio-economic development and becoming an important linkage for the relationship between the two countries.
Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1973 and overcoming many global and regional fluctuations, the friendship and cooperation between Việt Nam and Japan has been continuously consolidated and developed in various fields.
The two countries have built various important legal frameworks for bilateral relations and are both members of new-generation free trade agreements, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Social and cultural exchanges
Japan is one of the largest non-refundable aid countries for the education and training industry in Việt Nam. The most prominent cooperation programmes that bring Vietnamese trainees to Japan are the Japan International Trainee & Skilled Worker Cooperation Organization (JITCO) and the Japan Human Resource Development Agency.
Việt Nam ranks first in the number of foreign trainees in Japan with more than 200,000 people.
In 2022, Japan became Việt Nam’s leading labour market, receiving the most Vietnamese workers (more than 67,000 people).
Việt Nam has provided a large number of skilled technical workers, information technology engineers, and nurses and aides to work in Japan. This has been especially important in the context of the nursing and healthcare worker shortage in Japan.
Cultural and people-to-people exchanges have become an important cooperation pillar between Việt Nam and Japan.
2023 marks the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Việt Nam-Japan diplomatic relations with the theme “Việt Nam-Japan: Towards the Future, Reach out to the World".
The relationship, that is said to have "infinite potential" between the two countries, is approaching a period of development.
Every sector of cooperation - politics, socio-economy or culture - has all gained impressive outcomes over the past half century based on mutual trust and understanding, as Vietnamese Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính said about Việt Nam-Japan relations: “We work together and feel trust and sincerity. This is very decisive for successful cooperation. When we are sincere and trust each other, it is easier to overcome difficulties.” VNS