Late former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe highly valued the Vietnam-Japan relationship and left several important legacies for both countries, former Vietnamese ambassador Nguyen Quoc Cuong said.
“The most important legacy that Abe left for Vietnam-Japan relations was trust, not only between leaderships, but also their people,” Cuong, Vietnamese ambassador in Japan for the 2015-2018 period, said.
Abe passed away Friday after being assassinated while delivering a speech in Japan’s Nara Prefecture. The suspect used a homemade gun to shoot Abe from the back.
Cuong said he still couldn’t believe the assassination happened as Japan has always been a peaceful country. He said he was still mourning Abe’s death.
“Abe has always seen Vietnam as a country with an important role in both the region and the world. Because he highly valued Vietnam’s role and position on the international stage, he wanted to boost relations between Japan and Vietnam,” Cuong said.
Throughout his career, Abe had repeatedly told Vietnamese leaders that he was especially impressed with the Vietnamese people for their loyalty to friends.
Vietnam, in response, always regarded him as a dear friend whenever Abe visited the nation or vice versa.
Throughout his two terms as Japanese prime minister, Abe visited Vietnam four times. The first visit was in 2006, when he participated in the APEC Summit in Hanoi. Abe was 52 then, the youngest prime minister Japan ever had after the war.
In January 2013, Vietnam became Abe’s first foreign destination after he became prime minister a second time in 2012. The other two visits were in 2017.
“If we don’t count the special relationship between Japan and the U.S., Vietnam is possibly the country that Abe visited the most as prime minister,” Cuong said.
He added Abe had greatly contributed to the bilateral relationship between Vietnam and Japan by boosting the two countries’ strategic partnership on all fronts, including politics, diplomacy, security, defense and economy.
Japan has also placed Vietnam at a key position within the region’s common vision, including the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) policy. Japan has also supported Vietnam to participate more in structuring of the regional economy through multilateral agreements, like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
From 2012 to 2020, Japan became one of Vietnam’s most important partners thanks to Abe’s contributions as prime minister and president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
He supported Vietnam as an ASEAN chair and as president of the U.N. Security Council. Abe was also the one who invited Vietnam to participate in the G7 summit in 2016 and G20 summit in 2020.
Under Abe’s leadership, Japan and Vietnam boosted their relationship in several fields, with economic cooperation as a pillar. Japan is still Vietnam’s largest ODA sponsor to this day, reaching around $17 billion from 1992 to 2021, accounting for around 30 percent of all ODA from the international community to Vietnam, according to a study last year in the Industry and Trade Magazine.
By 2019, a year before Abe stepped down from his position due to ulcerative colitis, Japan became Vietnam’s second largest source of foreign investments at $59.33 billion, accounting for 16.4 percent of registered FDI into Vietnam.
The Japanese government has also helped Vietnam enhance its law enforcement capabilities on the sea, including agreements to provide Vietnam with patrol ships.
A study last year in the ISEAS magazine said Vietnam is an important partner for Japan’s sea diplomacy strategy, which began under Abe’s leadership.
Japan has also repeatedly affirmed its stance of supporting order on the South China Sea in accordance with the law. In 2018, for the 45-year anniversary of the Vietnam-Japan bilateral relations, the two countries enhanced their defense cooperation with a Joint Vision Statement on Defense Relations, which highlighted the importance of building a stable, free and open order in the Indo-Pacific in accordance with international law.
The statement also affirmed Vietnam and Japan’s stance that all countries need to act in accordance with principles stated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Following a state visit by late Vietnamese president Tran Dai Quang in 2018, Vietnam and Japan also conducted their 6th Defense Policy Dialogue in July.
Abe paid attention to exchanges between the two countries’ leadership to foster trust with frequent visits and participation on both global and regional forums.
“High-level exchanges have fostered Vietnam and Japan’s relationship on all fronts,” Cuong said.
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