Although tourism and trade between Japan and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam have expanded rapidly in recent years, when compared with other ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, Vietnam has maintained a fairly low profile in the Japanese media. But suddenly the country is being admiringly portrayed by some as a kindred spirit, and by a few as a military role model to be emulated.

The reason for this is simple: Japan and Vietnam are both engaged in acrimonious territorial disputes with China — in Japan’s case the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu in Chinese), administered as part of Okinawa Prefecture; and in Vietnam’s case, two groups of islands and shoals in the South China Sea, the Paracel and Spratley islands (Xisha and Nansha in Chinese). The latter, which encompasses just 4 sq. km of land, are spread over 425,000 sq. km of ocean, and are also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

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