Japan scheme for politician visitors resumed

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Foreign minister Prak Sokhonn (left) looks over a souvenir along with his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi on January 24. MFAIC

Cambodia and Japan have agreed to resume the Dialogue on Human Rights as well as a programme for young Cambodian politicians to travel to Japan, while also expressing satisfaction at the recovering bilateral trade, which has almost reached pre-pandemic levels.

The agreement came during an official visit by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn to Japan from January 21-24.

According to the foreign ministry, the programme for young Cambodian politicians would allow them to travel to Japan to gain a better understanding of its multi-party democratic process.

It said Sokhonn and his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi also expressed their commitment to uphold the existing Dialogue on Human Rights programme between the two countries.

The last Cambodia-Japan human rights dialogue event was held virtually on September 3, 2021, according to Japan’s foreign ministry.

In a press release on the outcome of Sokhonn’s visit, the ministry said the two ministers also discussed upgrading the current bilateral consultation mechanism from senior to deputy minister level.

“The two ministers were pleased to see the recovering trade volume, which was close to the pre-pandemic levels, as well as the strong in-flow of Japan’s investment to Cambodia. They also agreed to work more closely in further promoting the growing economic cooperation, including the resumption of direct flights between the two nations,” it said.

The bilateral merchandise trade totalled $1.948 billion in 2022, up by 12.33 per cent over the previous year, with Cambodian exports accounting for a 60.22 per cent share, down by 2.85 percentage points year-on-year, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).

Sokhonn’s visit coincided with the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Cambodia and Japan have recently seen their bilateral and diplomatic ties growing, with an upgrade in relations to “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” (CSP).

The CSP covers politics, security and defence, trade and investment, tourism, infrastructure development, mine clearance and people-to-people exchanges as well as initiatives to help the advancement of democracy in Cambodia, according to the statement.

The two ministers, it said, also expressed their satisfaction over the “best level ever” in the history of the two nations’ bilateral relations, underpinned by frequent high-level exchanges of visits, most notably the four meetings last year between Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida.

Sokhonn and Hayashi welcomed the active bilateral cooperation and communication in the fields of security and defence, as illustrated by the exchange of visits between high-ranking military officials and those of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force’s (JMSDF) naval ships to Sihanoukville Autonomous Port last year.

Sokhonn said he appreciated the government and people of Japan for their contributions to Cambodia’s peace process and to the Kingdom’s socio-economic development, as well as in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

He also thanked Japan for its continued support towards the development of the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port and help towards the goal of a “mine-free Cambodia by 2025”.

On international issues of common concerns, the two ministers expressed satisfaction on their ongoing trilateral cooperation to assist with demining in Ukraine, and agreed to expand such collaboration to other third countries on humanitarian grounds in the future.

Sokhonn also reaffirmed Cambodia’s consistent support for Japan’s candidacy for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC). He said he supported Japan’s effort in accelerating the UNSC resolution on the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea.

The minister also expressed Cambodia’s support for the three fundamental principles of Japan’s “National Security Strategy” focused on proactive contributions to peace, universal values and co-existence and co-prosperity with other countries, according to the ministry.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, recently told The Post that the relationship between the Kingdom and Japan has improved day by day.

“This relationship is deepening in all aspects, in all fields, at all levels. It also shows the balance of Cambodia’s foreign relations with countries in the region and the world,” he said.