- Suga said that Vietnam was the right option for his first trip outside Japan as the country's prime minister.
- Phuc said that peace and security in the South China Sea should be secured by the rule of law, not unilaterally by coercion or by threats.
- Japan has sought pacts of this nature in recent years to improve relations with Southeast Asia and to maintain its own defense industry.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made his first overseas meeting since taking office last month. At the conference, an agreement was reached with the Prime Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, to improve cooperation in defense and protection in reaction to Chinese increased involvement in the region.
The Prime Ministers reached an essential agreement during Suga’s Hanoi meeting to enable Japan to export defense equipment and technology transfer to Vietnam. This agreement was anticipated.
In recent years, Japan has pursued this agreement with the aim of strengthening relations with Southeast Asia and providing a lifeline for its defense industry.
Mr. Suga arrived in Hanoi for his first visit to Vietnam and Indonesia on Sunday night. According to Prime Minister Suga, this visit is the gateway to the initiative “free and transparent Indo-Pacific.”
The plan aims to fight China’s expansion and secure seaways in disputed areas in the South China Sea through means of multilateral collaboration on economic and security issues.
“Vietnam is crucial to achieving our vision of ‘the Free and Open Indo-Pacific,’ and our valuable partner,’” Suga told a news conference after his meeting with Phuc. “Japan, as an Indo-Pacific nation, will continue to contribute to the peace and stability in this region.”
Following an hour-long meeting with Mr. Phuc, Mr. Suga said that Vietnam, the Indo-Pacific center, is the best place to go abroad as a Japanese leader for the first time.
Japan has also concluded deals for the sale of military machinery with the United States, Great Britain, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Vietnam is going to be its twelfth partner.
This agreement is named by Mr. Suga as a “great move” in bilateral security cooperation and hopes for further progress. Details on possible sales of equipment were not provided. In August, Japan recently exported a radar tracking device to the Philippines.
“Vietnam appreciates that Japan, one of the world’s leading powers, is actively contributing its efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region and in the world,” Phuc said.
Mr. Suga and Mr. Phuc have signed a partnership agreement in a number of areas, including economic cooperation, infrastructure, electricity, climate, and agricultural exchange.
Japan is one of Vietnam’s largest trading partners, with a trading value of $28.6 billion this year combined for the two countries. Japan is also Vietnam’s top donor, supplying more than a fifth of Vietnam’s loans in 2019 at $23 billion.
The Japanese government has encouraged Japanese firms to invest in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries, seeking to reduce their reliance on China in manufacturing and other industries.
In August, Vietnam decided to buy six patrol vessels worth $345 million from Japan to boost its maritime capacities. It was agreed that China was developing further artificial islands and military bases in the conflict zones of the South China Sea.
Shinzo Abe, the forerunner of Mr. Suga, also chose Vietnam as his first country to visit following his takeover. Mr. Suga was Vietnam’s first foreign leader since Vietnam shut down its borders for COVID-19 issues.