Vietnam upgrades ties with Japan to highest level

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam and Japan on Monday officially upgraded their relations to a “comprehensive strategic partnership” during a visit by Vietnamese president Vo Van Thuong to Tokyo.

The move underlined Vietnam’s increasingly strategic role as an important link in global supply chains amid trade tension between China and the West, which is helping to bring foreign investment to the southeast Asian country as some companies relocate operations from China.

“This is an important event, opening a new chapter in the Vietnam-Japan relation,” Thuong said in a speech broadcast on national television.

The elevation of ties with Japan followed Vietnam’s historic upgrade of relations with the United States in September, when the former foes signed multiple cooperation agreements, including on semiconductors and critical minerals.

Vietnam has designated five other countries as comprehensive strategic partners, including China, India, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

Japan is Vietnam’s third-largest source of foreign investment and its fourth-largest trading partner, with bilateral trade reaching $50 billion last year.

Several Japanese multinationals, such as Canon, Honda, Panasonic and Bridgestone, are among the largest foreign investors in Vietnam, turning it into a regional manufacturing hub, with one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia.

Vietnam and Japan, both embroiled in separate maritime disputes with China, in 2020 reached a $348 million Japanese loan agreement for Vietnam to build six patrol vessels.

(Reporting by Khanh Vu, editing by Ed Osmond)