Japan, Vietnam Set to Agree on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa and Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son attend a bilateral meeting in Hanoi on Oct. 10.

Japan and Vietnam are planning to upgrade their bilateral ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, the highest level possible, according to Japanese government sources.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to agree to boost the cooperative framework during talks with Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong, who is scheduled to visit Japan as early as next month, the sources said.

The envisaged move will add Japan to Vietnam’s list of “top-tier” countries, including the United States and China.

Japan and Vietnam are concerned about China’s maritime expansion in the East China Sea and South China Sea, respectively. In light of Beijing’s actions, Tokyo and Hanoi upgraded their relationship from a Strategic Partnership to an Extensive Strategic Partnership in March 2014 and have been working to further strengthen their ties ever since.

The upgrading of the bilateral relationship is highly symbolic. Japan reportedly intends to leverage the move toward boosting bonds in the economic and security realms, while jointly working with Vietnam toward realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Japan is considering including the Vietnamese military in its Official Security Assistance (OSA) framework, which is designed to enhance the defense capabilities of like-minded countries through the free provision of defense equipment.

In addition to the United States and China, Vietnam also maintains top-level relations with Russia, India and South Korea. In September, Vietnam added the United States — a former war foe — to its list of highest-ranking countries. It is thought that Vietnam views strengthening relations with Japan as being crucial to its “omnidirectional” approach to diplomacy.

This year, Tokyo and Hanoi marked 50 years of diplomatic relations. In recent years, the two nations’ economic ties have become particularly strong, primarily due to an increasing number of Japanese companies establishing operations in Vietnam. Defense-related cooperation has also progressed, including the reaching of an agreement relating to defense equipment and technology transfers.