• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Vietnamese President Trang Duc Luong agreed Sunday to make efforts to boost bilateral cooperation and broaden cultural exchanges ahead of next year’s 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Japanese government officials said.

Koizumi and Luong met on the second and final day of the Japanese leader’s official visit to Vietnam, the first leg of a weeklong swing through the region that will also take him to East Timor, Australia and New Zealand.

According to the officials, Luong noted that the anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties in September next year coincides with the “Year of Japan-ASEAN Exchange: 2003” — an initiative unveiled by Koizumi in January during visits to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) five original members — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

The 10-member ASEAN also includes Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Koizumi, who earlier in the day paid homage at the mausoleum of Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh and toured Hanoi, told Luong he has long wished to visit Vietnam and sees the country as having great potential, according to the officials.

Japan is now Vietnam’s largest trade partner, largest official development assistance donor, and one of Vietnam’s largest sources of investment.

Drawing a parallel between his own restructuring efforts in Japan and Vietnam’s continuing pursuit of its “doi moi” reform drive, Koizumi quipped that he would like to be deemed worthy of being nicknamed “Mr. Doi Moi” for his reform efforts.

Koizumi said he was impressed that Vietnam, having fought wars with France, China and the United States, has gone on to forge friendly and beneficial relations with those countries, much as Japan formed a close relationship with the U.S. after World War II, spurring its own development.

In a meeting Saturday with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, Koizumi was quoted as saying that if Japan could develop into an advanced country even after being defeated by the U.S., Vietnam, having won its war with the U.S., should be able to make great strides.

The officials said Luong reiterated Vietnam’s invitation for Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to visit Vietnam, which was formally extended by Khai in his Saturday meeting with Koizumi.

In that meeting, the two prime ministers agreed to hold regular high-level exchanges to discuss political and security issues and to accelerate talks aimed at signing an agreement on investment protection and promotion.

Khai voiced support Saturday for Koizumi’s initiative for a “Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership,” but failed to win him over to the idea of concluding a bilateral trade agreement, the officials said.

They said Tokyo sees little merit in forging a bilateral trade agreement with a country that already receives most-favored-nation treatment and has yet to join the World Trade Organization.

Koizumi also met Saturday with Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh and extended an invitation for him to visit Japan next autumn.

Vietnamese leaders thanked Japan for extending generous amounts of aid to Vietnam, which has totaled $7 billion over the past decade, or 40 percent of the total received from foreign donors.

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