New Momentum in Cambodia-Japan Ties

The Khmer Times, 14 August 2017

Japan is an old friend of Cambodia. The bilateral relations have been continuously enhanced, particularly after the end of the Cold War.

Strategic convergence, political trust and the personal friendship between the two leaders are instrumental in advancing the ties.

Since the signing of a strategic partnership agreement in 2013, Cambodia-Japan ties have been deepening and widening. Japan is now one of the main economic and strategic partners of Cambodia.

During his state visit to Japan on August 7-9, Prime Minister Hun Sen affirmed his commitment to advancing the strategic partnership. It was his third state visit to Japan under Shinzo Abe’s administration. The first visit took place in 2007 and the second visit was in 2013. Mr Hun Sen has visited Japan 21 times. 

Mr Hun Sen has invited Prime Minister Abe to visit Cambodia this year to mark the 60th anniversary of the visit to Cambodia by his grandfather, the then Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, who was the first Japanese leader to visit Cambodia in 1957.

This year also marks 25th anniversary of Japan sending its peacekeeping forces to Cambodia under the framework of the United Nations. It was the first time since the end of World War II that Japan sent its forces abroad.

Japan’s contribution to peacekeeping and peace building in Cambodia was significant.

During the visit, both sides exchanged views on a wide range of issues, including regional issues. Both sides agreed to cooperate on certain international issues such as North Korea, the Osaka Exhibition 2025, the election at Unesco and the whaling issue.

Cambodia also supports Japan’s initiative on “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”, which aims to strengthen maritime connectivity and build a strategic bridge linking the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Japan is interested in strengthening its regional security role through providing capacity building on maritime security, including maritime domain awareness and maritime law enforcement.

Asean, Australia, India and the US are the main strategic partners of Japan in implementing the initiative.

Japan is committed to assisting Cambodia to realise its vision of becoming a higher-income country by 2030.

Building quality infrastructure, promoting Japanese investment and expanding bilateral trade are the key cooperation areas. Both sides are committed to increasing their trade value to $2 billion in coming years.

Two agreements were signed, accounting for more than $244 million, to develop flood protection infrastructure in Phnom Penh and the construction of a terminal port in Sihanoukville.

Cambodia has also requested Japan’s assistance to develop a skytrain, with an investment capital of $800 million. But there has been no decision from the Japanese side yet.

In a very rare, special occasion, Mr Hun Sen was deeply touched by the birthday celebration organised by Mr Abe. It was one of the most memorable events for Mr Hun Sen.

Posted on his Facebook page two days after his visit, Mr Hun Sen showed his selfie photo with Mr Abe taken in April 2015 at the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference in Jakarta to express their deep personal ties.

He wrote: “My friendship with Prime Minister Abe in working together to build Cambodia-Japan strategic partnership derives from mutual friendship and respect regardless of rich country or poor country, big country or small country.

“In Tokyo, Prime Minister Abe celebrated my birthday for me, which clearly reflects his friendship, his friendship to me.”

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