Shinzo Abe and his Vietnamese counterpart Luong Thai Linh/Getty Images

Asia’s Evolving Security Order

China’s increasing assertiveness in maritime disputes has catalyzed deepening strategic cooperation between Vietnam and Japan. Given the added risk that US President Donald Trump will reduce US military engagement with Asia, new partnerships of this kind are becoming essential to regional security.

SINGAPORE – During his visit to Huế, Vietnam’s former royal capital, earlier this year, Japanese Emperor Akihito and his entourage were reminded of their country’s longstanding cultural connections with Vietnam. In the eighth century, Phat Triet, a Cham Buddhist monk from what is now central Vietnam, traveled to Japan, where he helped to popularize Cham music and dance, which was later incorporated into the Japanese imperial court’s gagaku performances. During his visit, the emperor had the opportunity to enjoy the Vietnamese version of gagaku, which also has Cham origins.

The emperor’s visit to Vietnam – the first by a Japanese monarch – represents an important milestone in the maturing bilateral relationship, which has been buttressed not only by strong cultural links, but also by robust economic ties and growing strategic cooperation. At the end of last year, Japan was Vietnam’s largest source of official development assistance (ODA), its second-largest foreign investor, and its fourth-largest trade partner.

Along with closer economic cooperation in recent years, Japan and Vietnam have been strengthening strategic ties. The bilateral “strategic partnership” that was established in 2009 was upgraded to an “extended strategic partnership” in 2014.

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