|Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo welcomes Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in Tokyo during the latter's visit in September 2015
PM Abe holds a special affection for Vietnam and was always prepared to receive Vietnamese leaders and people. In addition to greeting senior leaders with the highest level of diplomatic etiquette, the Japanese PM was willing to receive lower ranking leaders in order to share cooperation options with them, with many such meetings proving beneficial to both sides.
Cordially welcoming Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong on an official visit to Tokyo in September, 2015, PM Abe regarded the top Vietnamese leader as a close friend of the Japanese people before affirming the great importance he attached to mutual relations. Indeed, this is a key reason why he chose Vietnam as the first country to visit after being re-elected.
“I am pleased to see that the Vietnam-Japan relationship has developed in various fields in the spirit of strategic partnership,” Japanese PM Abe declared.
During talks, leaders from both sides were given a platform in which to exchange views and express their opinions about ongoing actions, including land reclamation and construction of large outposts in the East Sea, actions which are intentionally aimed at changing the status quo and causing tensions in the region. Both sides adopted a joint statement outlining orientations for bilateral cooperation moving forward.
In terms of international forums, PM Abe was always willing to accept the proposals but forward by Vietnamese leaders. Most notably, the Japanese PM personally invited Vietnam to participate in the extended G7 Summit in Ise-Shima back in May 2015, along with the G20 Summit in Osaka in June, 2019. These actions display the enthusiasm of the Japanese leader to strengthen cooperation between both sides.
Meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at these events, PM Abe spoke highly of the country’s position, role, and external gains, while outlining his appreciation for the community of more than 330,000 Vietnamese citizens living in Japan, considering them a valuable asset for both nations.
In his capacity as Japanese PM, he made four visits to Vietnam, including a trip in November 2006 for an APEC summit and a January 2013 visit just after being re-elected as PM. Indeed, this was his first overseas visit after being sworn in for his second term in office. The other two trips were made in January and November of the same year, during which he had left a good impression on the Vietnamese people.
PM Abe has been able to make an important contribution to promoting mutual cooperation across all areas, including politics, national defence, security, economics, investment, trade, culture, education, and people-to-people exchanges.
Last year saw the Far East nation become Vietnam’s fourth largest trading partner, following China, the United States, and the Republic of Korea, in addition to the third largest export partner, after the US and China, and the third largest importer, after China and the Republic of Korea.
Moreover, bilateral trade during the past decade has grown at a steady rate, with the annual imbalance not being too big. Last year saw Japan ranked fourth among countries and territories investing in Vietnam, with total registered capital of US$4.14 billion.
|Abe Shinzo's spouse (middle) poses for a photo at a Vietnam Festival in Japan
Elsewhere, bilateral cultural and educational cooperation has also enjoyed tremendous development. Japan welcomed over 85,000 Vietnamese students and more than 200,000 interns during the past five years.
Despite the global spread of the novel coronavirus, Japan has still been able to create favourable conditions for Vietnamese citizens living in the country, including extending visas, providing daily life support, and offering medical examinations to Vietnamese students and trainees.
With the surprise resignation of PM Abe from office due to health reasons, officials from both Vietnam and Japan remain hopeful that relations will still develop in the wake of his legacy. This comes after Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu stated that PM Abe’s thinking and values will be continued by the next generation.