Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, Oct 19 (efe-epa).- Vietnam and Japan signed Monday in Hanoi a preliminary agreement for the export of Japanese military equipment and technology and pledged to strengthen economic ties as a counterweight to China’s strong influence in the region.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said during the press conference after his meeting with Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc that “defense and security cooperation between the two countries will continue to be promoted.”
Many analysts see Japan’s rapprochement with Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries as a way to counteract China’s weight, both from an economic and security point of view, since both countries have territorial conflicts with Beijing.
Suga, who arrived last night in the Vietnamese capital on his first international trip as prime minister, highlighted the “key” role of Vietnam as the president of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to ensure a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region.
“I have chosen Vietnam because it is the most suitable place to send this message to the world for the first time,” said Suga, who has been the head of the Japanese government since last September, after the resignation of Shinzo Abe.
Phuc said both leaders agreed on the importance of maintaining peace, security and freedom of flight and navigation over the South China Sea and highlighted the role of a global power such as Japan to advance “peace and prosperity in the (Asia-Pacific) region and the world.”
The beginning of the agreement for the sale of Japanese military equipment to Vietnam comes after the defense ministers of both countries agreed in March in the Vietnamese capital to sell Japanese technology to build military vessels.
Vietnam has diversified its acquisitions of defense equipment in recent years, especially in the naval field, given the territorial conflict it has with China over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea.
For its part, Japan lifted its self-imposed ban on arms exports in 2014 and has been in negotiations for months with Thailand and Indonesia – as well as Vietnam – to reach agreements of this type and gain influence in the area.
Phuc and Suga also pledged in their Monday meeting to strengthen their economic cooperation to alleviate the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and agreed to reopen commercial flights between the two countries, with priority for business trips.
Efforts to increase economic cooperation, which would translate into greater investment by Japanese companies in Vietnam, are part of the strategy both countries are pursuing to ease their dependence on China as a trading partner.
According to the Japan Times newspaper, the Japanese government has agreed to award subsidies to 30 companies from different sectors for moving their production from China to Southeast Asia.
After his meeting with Phuc, Suga met with the President and Communist Party Secretary-General Nguyen Phu Trong, and National Assembly President Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan. Suga will head Tuesday to Indonesia, where he will conclude his trip. EFE-EPA