Vietnam and Japan agreed on Wednesday to strengthen their security cooperation and boost their pandemic hit economies.
The agreement comes as Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh held talks with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, where the two leaders pledged to work together for a "free and open Indo-Pacific' region, amid rising concerns over China's territorial assertiveness.
"First of all, we agreed to continue top level talks to strengthen political trust, substantial cooperation on security, national defense, diplomacy, and to cooperate on Taiwan. I hope we can consider each other important, long-term partners and take the relationship between our countries to another level."
Pundits say Japan's efforts to strengthen ties with Vietnam highlights its willingness to maintain influence in Southeast Asia, as next year Cambodia will assume the chairmanship of ASEAN, raising concerns for Japan that China's influence on the group will increase given Beijing's close ties with Cambodia.
In response, Kishida agreed to export more defense equipment, such as naval vessels, to Vietnam.
Pham is the first foreign leader to visit Japan since Kishida took office, while also marking the Japanese leaders first in-person meeting with another head of state, other than at international conferences.