• Kyodo

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The governments of Japan and Vietnam are making arrangements for Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, to make his first visit to Japan, sources in both countries said Tuesday.

The visit could take place as early as September, sources connected with Vietnam’s Communist Party indicated. Trong outranks President Truong Tan Sang and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in the country’s leadership hierarchy.

Trong visited the United States earlier this month, becoming the party’s first chief to do so since the end of the Vietnam War. He met with U.S. President Barack Obama and they shared concerns about Chinese activities to press sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. Both countries view China’s actions in that area as contravening international law.

The visit to Japan appears aimed at checking China. Vietnam is involved in a territorial dispute with that country in the resource-rich South China Sea.

The last leader of the Communist Party of Vietnam to visit Japan was Nong Duc Manh in April 2009.

When Prime Minister Dung visited Japan earlier this month, he expressed Trong’s desire to visit Japan.

Japan is Vietnam’s largest donor country, and its fourth-largest trade partner after China, the United States and South Korea. Relations between Japan and Vietnam are extremely close in the political and economic spheres.

When Sang visited Japan last year, he agreed to elevate bilateral ties to an Extensive Strategic Partnership.

Against the backdrop of China’s increasingly assertive maritime claims, Vietnam is also boosting cooperation in maritime security. The Japanese and Vietnamese governments agreed last year that Japan would provide Vietnam with six vessels that could be used as patrol ships, in a move to assist Hanoi’s efforts to strengthen its law enforcement capability in the South China Sea.

Maritime Self-Defense Force ships and an MSDF P-3C surveillance aircraft have recently visited Vietnam.

Prior to visiting Washington, Trong visited China in April, during which he showed concern for his country’s close ties with its larger neighbor amid the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

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