Last week, Japan and Vietnam held the latest in a series of ongoing defense consultations. While the interaction was just one of a series of activities in the bilateral relationship, it nonetheless spotlighted some of the ongoing activity in the security aspect of their ties in 2020
As I have observed previously in these pages, while Japan and Vietnam have long maintained a defense component in their wider bilateral relationship, the two countries have been boosting their security ties as part of their strategic partnership over the past few years, with Vietnam looking to strengthen ties with a range of powers as part of its omnidirectional foreign policy and Japan seeking to boost relations with Southeast Asian countries, including in the defense domain.
That has continued on over the past few months, be it the holding of regular bilateral consultations such as the Vietnam-Japan Defense Policy Dialogue that was held last November or advancing work in newer areas such as the first joint coordination meeting on information security and law enforcement capacities in September 2019.
Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the holding of a defense consultation meeting in Tokyo. The engagement, which occurred on February 21, was co-chaired by Vietnam’s deputy defense minister, Nguyen Chi Vinh, and his Japanese counterpart Nishida Yasunori.
The meeting saw both sides discuss a range of issues. According to the official account of the interaction released by Vietnam’s defense ministry, with respect to the bilateral relationship, the two sides agreed to boost aspects of defense ties including exchanges of delegations, UN peacekeeping, cyber security, search and rescue, and settlement of post-war consequences.
Both sides also touched on regional issues as well. Vietnam shared activities to be held in 2020 as Hanoi holds both the ASEAN chairmanship for 2020 as well as the non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council, including the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting, the 10th anniversary of ADMM-Plus, international exhibition of defense equipment, and international conference on the role of women and UN peacekeeping activities.
The defense consultation occurred amid other interactions as well. This included a meeting between Vinh and other officials including Defense Minister Taro Kono who he invited on an official visit to Vietnam. Vietnam and Japan also co-chaired the second ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) workshop on international cooperation on maritime domain awareness in Tokyo on February 20, which brought together experts from ARF member states and representatives from different Japanese ministries and agencies to address a range of challenges including piracy, maritime terrorism and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.