Japan and Vietnam agreed in March to enhance their maritime security cooperation amid tensions over territorial disputes with China. This is a move squarely aimed at improving Vietnam’s maritime policing capabilities in the face of China’s increasingly active role in the South China Sea.
“This bi-lateral diplomacy comes amidst China’s efforts to claim a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea.”
Japan is expected to announce the dispatch of a survey team to Vietnam shortly in order to exchange opinions. This will lead to Japan’s supplying of patrol boats to Vietnam to counter China’s increased activity in regional waters. Vietnam will benefit by acquiring new and improved naval equipment, and Japan will benefit by acquiring a more capable ally in the region.
This bi-lateral diplomacy comes amidst China’s efforts to claim a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea. The Japan-administered islands, referred to as the Senkakus, are also currently claimed by China and Taiwan, where they are known as Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang also called for freedom of flight above open waters, in a direct criticism of China’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) declaration, which stipulates that aircraft flying into another country’s ADIZ now be required to identify themself and provide flight data. This declaration comes amidst China’s recent indications that it may create such a flight zone over the South China Sea, most of which the country already claims as part of its territory. However, four other members of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Brunei have competing flight zone claims with China.
Vietnam and Japan established official diplomatic relations on 21 September 1973. Since then, bilateral ties have undergone some historical ups and downs until Japan resumed its Official Development Assistance (ODA) provisions to Vietnam in 1992. Today, Japan is Vietnam’s biggest development assistance donor and investor. Moreover, from 1992 to 2003, Japan provided US$21 billion ODA to Vietnam, making the country’s leading ODA donor.