Foreign minister Prak Sokhonn lauded the “excellent” relations between Cambodia and Japan as he attended a February 27 celebration of the Japanese Emperor’s Birthday Celebration and the 70th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between the two nations. The event was held in Phnom Penh.

Sokhonn, who is also deputy prime minister, said this closeness is evidenced by the fact that around 4,500 Japanese nationals reside and work in the Kingdom, while more than 15,000 Cambodians are studying or working in Japan. He added that Japanese volunteers had assisted Cambodia’s development in many sectors.

“Cooperation between the two countries has had a significant impact on strengthening bilateral relations. In terms of high-level exchanges of visits and interactions, last year Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida held four summit meetings, twice in Cambodia and twice in Japan,” he said.

In addition, the defence and foreign ministers of Japan also visited Cambodia to participate in ASEAN-related meetings.

“In just the first two months of the year, I paid a visit to Japan and reciprocally Japan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs recently visited here,” said Sokhonn.

In the area of security and defence, Lieutenant General Hun Manet, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) met with Japanese General Koji Yamazaki in 2022, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) made two visits.

Japan remains one of the main donors and economic partners of Cambodia with its comprehensive support in a wide area of development domains, especially in infrastructure development, among them national roads 1 and 5 and the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.

“Two-way trade volume has returned to the pre-pandemic figure of $1.95 billion a year. Japan’s investment continues to be impressive,” he said.

Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Atsushi Ueno said the relationship between the two countries could be symbolised by the Japan-Cambodia Friendship Bridge, commonly known as the Chroy Changvar bridge. It was built through cooperation between the two nations, and was first completed in 1966.

“An exchange of human resources continues, including volunteers and researchers from Japan and Cambodian students receiving scholarships to study in Japan,” he said.

“The relationship was disrupted by the Cambodian civil war, but since the 1990s the two countries have built a strong and trusting friendship, through their cooperation in the Cambodian peace process,” he added.

Ueno noted that Kishida and Hun Sen exchanged visits twice each for four summits last year. The two leaders agreed to improve Japan-Cambodia relations by defining it as a comprehensive strategic partnership this year, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

“Cooperation between the two countries now covers all areas, including security, economy, culture and people-to-people exchanges. The relationship is currently at its historic best,” he continued.

“I believe that a comprehensive strategic partnership does not mean that Japan-Cambodia relations should be viewed in a bilateral context, nor does it mean that one side provides something to the other. In contrast, Japan and Cambodia should work together to address regional and international challenges together,” he said.

He described the joint demining exercises conducted by Japan and Cambodia for Ukrainian officers as a symbolic example of how the two countries could work together to address the challenges facing the international community.

“In the bilateral context, both sides also acknowledge the importance of strengthening cooperation in new areas such as digital [including cyber security], economic security and climate change, as well as in growing economic ties through trade and investment,” he added.