A Japanese scholar has said economic factors have been the major driving force behind the Vietnam-Japan ties but recently their relations have been driven more by security, so Tokyo now has a keen interest in building maritime security capacity for Hanoi.
Dr. Ken Jimbo, an associate professor at Keio University in Tokyo and a senior research fellow at the Tokyo-based Canon Institute for Global Studies, offered these comments in an exclusive interview with VnExpress News on Tuesday, when General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong embarked on a five-day visit to Japan.
General Secretary Trong’s ongoing visit, aimed at enhancing the strategic partnership between the two nations, is his first to the East Asian country since becoming chief of the party in 2011.
During his visit, he is scheduled to have bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
What are your comments on the current position of Vietnam regionally and internationally as well as the meaning of the visit by General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong to Japan?
Dr. Ken Jimbo: Vietnam has been one of the most promising emerging economies in ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations]. Vietnam also has a huge geopolitical importance as a neighbor of China and coastal states in the [East Vietnam Sea]. General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit to Japan will certainly enhance strategic ties between Japan and Vietnam.
Although the two countries do not share the same economic model and political system, they have been getting closer to each other over time. What similarities can we see to help bring the two countries together?
The major driving force has been economic factors but recently their relations have been driven more by security. The Japanese investment strategy of China-Plus-One has proved most successful in Vietnam. We also share the goal of region-wide free trade through Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Maritime security is obviously drawing the two nations much closer. Japan’s strategic interests in securing sea-lanes of communications in the East China Sea and the [East Vietnam Sea] would match Vietnam’s aspiration to secure the stability of the [latter sea] and [its] Paracel Islands.
A senior Vietnamese official once said political parties in Japan have different views on most issues but all of them support the growing ties between Vietnam and Japan. Moreover, after taking office in late 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe chose Vietnam for his first visit overseas. How do you assess the future prospects of the Vietnam-Japan ties?
Japan has bipartisan and comprehensive support for relations with Vietnam. There is no longer the ideological divide behind its support.
One highlight of General Secretary Trong’s visit is to boost bilateral trade and economic ties. As you might know, Japan is the first country of G7 to recognize the market economy in Vietnam. During the general secretary’s visit, it is supposed that the two countries’ leaders would agree to spur the combination of the two economies. Is it possible “to combine” the two economies because there is a big gap in GDP – US$4,616 billion of Japan (2014) compared to $188 billion of Vietnam?
Japan’s FDI inflow to Vietnam’s manufacturing industries would be the key drivers of mutual economic relations. Vietnam also needs constant updates and reforms of its economic structure for stimulating its innovations and cultivating consumer markets and service industries.
Japan would provide Vietnam with more patrol ships. Will there be any breakthrough in the two countries’ security and defense ties, especially in maritime cooperation?
Japan has a strong interest in building a capacity for Vietnam’s maritime security. As the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) has been the key feature to manage [East Vietnam Sea] conundrums, the provision of Coast Guard patrol vessels would directly serve this purpose. Japan may also be interested in enhancing training and sharing practices of maritime management.
When Japan suffered devastating consequences in the wake of the tsunami in 2011, a large number of Vietnamese people of all ages and from every walk of life donated money to support the Japanese victims and their families. At the same time, the Japanese government still committed a high amount of ODA for Vietnam. How is their relationship reflected through this story?
Japan and Vietnam have shared mutual trust and friendship over decades. Japanese people highly appreciate Vietnamese’s support during the difficult times in 2011. We also appreciate young prospective Vietnamese students aspiring to study and obtain degrees in Japanese universities. Japanese people greatly admire Vietnam regarding its history, culture, cuisine, tourism and its people’s kindness and innovative spirit will continue to grow.