New Developments in Japan-vietnam Partnership: Impetus and Prospects

China International Studies (English) - - Contents - Zhang Jiye & Niu Jusheng

Japan-vietnam relations have experienced remarkable progress as Japan is strengthening its strategic involvement in regional affairs, and Vietnam is advancing its domestic reforms and external balancing. It reflects their strategic consideration in response to China’s rise but is to a large extent beyond the will of China.

The dynamics of the Asia-pacific region have been undergoing complex changes. As Japan is strengthening its strategic involvement in regional affairs, and Vietnam is advancing its domestic reforms and external balancing, Japan-vietnam relations have experienced remarkable progress. It is thus worth reviewing the developments in Japan-vietnam relations to better understand this evolving aspect of the strategic situation in China’s neighborhood and respective considerations of regional countries’ policies.

New Developments in Japan-vietnam Relations

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1973, bilateral relationship between Japan and Vietnam has experienced overall development despite some twists and turns, which can be separated into three stages. In the first stage, from establishing diplomatic relations to 1979, the bilateral relations were mainly based on Japan’s aid to Vietnam. After the end of the Vietnam War and the United States’ withdrawal from Vietnam, Japan started to promote the Fukuda Doctrine and expand its influence in Southeast Asia. For Vietnam, Japan’s policy focus was to normalize and push forward the bilateral relations by means of aid. The second stage was from 1979 to 1992,

when the bilateral relations seriously deteriorated as Japan joined the US to impose sanctions on Vietnam because of Vietnam’s alliance with the Soviet Union and its invasion of Cambodia. The third stage started in 1992. With the end of the Cold War and the resolution of the Cambodia issue, Japan lifted its sanctions against Vietnam in 1992 and resumed its assistance to Vietnam, normalizing bilateral relations. In 2009, the two countries formally agreed to establish a strategic partnership. Since then, especially since Shinzo Abe became Japan’s Prime Minister for the second time in 2012, relations between the two countries have embarked on a fast track, expanding and deepening cooperation in diplomacy, security, economy, and people-to-people exchange, which demonstrates a comprehensive, in-depth and strategic feature.

Strengthening strategic collaboration in diplomatic area

For a long time, ties between Japan and Vietnam mainly relied on economic, social and cultural cooperation. In recent years, the two countries have expanded their cooperation in diplomacy and security, which has greatly enriched the strategic connotations of their relations. In January 2013, Vietnam was the destination for Abe’s first foreign visit after taking office for the second time. In March 2014, then Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang visited Japan, and bilateral ties was upgraded from a strategic partnership to an “Extensive Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia.” In September 2015, Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), visited Japan for the first time, and the two sides issued the Joint Vision Statement on Japan-vietnam Relations, which explored the potential for cooperation from a long-term strategic perspective. After the leadership transition at the 12th CPV National Congress, the Japanese government has actively sought interaction with the new Vietnamese leaders. Vietnam’s new Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc was invited to attend the Outreach Meeting of the G7 Ise-shima Summit in May 2016. At

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