Japan, Vietnam pledge to increase defense cooperation

Japan, Vietnam pledge to increase defense cooperation

Felix Kim

In a year when Japan and Vietnam marked 45 years of bilateral diplomatic relations, the countries spent about half of 2018 strengthening defense ties with high-level military meetings.

The April 10, 2018, signing of a Joint Vision Statement on Defense Relations was followed by a summit in May and June between the countries’ top leaders. The summit, in turn, was followed by defense meetings and activities, including a subject matter expert exchange that dealt with engineering tasks on United Nations peacekeeping missions.

The defense leaders grappled with issues such as territorial maritime disputes, including those in the South and East China seas, nuclear nonproliferation, regional and global stability and many cooperative measures, according to PANO, the official news service of the Vietnamese Armed Forces.

At the April 2018 meeting, defense ministers emphasized the importance of “building a stable, free and open order in the Indo-Pacific region on the basis of international law,” including the need for all nations to conduct themselves according to mandates set forth by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Tokyo and Hanoi both have accused the People’s Republic of China of violating UNCLOS by making broad territorial claims to the waters off their shores. (Pictured: Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, left, attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in May 2018.)

In signing the vision statement, Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich Gno and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera formalized a cooperation agreement to have military exchanges, cooperate in aviation search and rescue, and participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations. They also vowed to work together on natural disaster response and cyber security.

Japan’s advanced scientific and technological development make it a valuable partner for Vietnam, particularly in the areas of military medicine and maritime security, PANO reported. “Vietnam welcomes ships and warships of the Japanese Self-Defense Force to its ports, for both visits and visits for technical purposes.”

At the Sixth Vietnam-Japan Defense Dialogue in July 2018, the countries affirmed the spirit of cooperation spelled out in the vision statement and acknowledged “remarkable progress as evidenced by exchange visits at all levels.”

Quang and Abe issued a joint statement at the close of their June summit, pledging to strengthen the defense cooperation outlined in the vision statement. “Both leaders confirmed that they will further strengthen maritime security cooperation, including through visits of vessels by the Japan Coast Guard,” the statement said. “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated Japan’s intention to continue assisting Vietnam in enhancing its maritime law enforcement capability.”

Felix Kim is a FORUM contributor reporting from Seoul, South Korea.