I am delighted to be able to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan with the people of Cambodia.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment, in 1953, of diplomatic relations between Japan and Cambodia.
In 1954, a year after the establishment of diplomatic relations, Cambodia renounced its right to demand World War II reparations from Japan.
The Japanese government invited then His Royal Highness Prince Sihanouk to Japan as a state guest in 1955. During His Royal Highness’s visit, Japan’s House of Representatives adopted a vote of thanks to Cambodia. Moreover, the two countries signed a Treaty of Amity during Prince Sihanouk’s visit to Japan.
This was the first treaty with a foreign country for both countries. For Japan, it was the first since the Treaty of San Francisco came into force, and for Cambodia it was the first since it gained independence.
Japan became actively involved in Cambodia’s peace process at the end of the 1980s, and hosted the Cambodia Peace Conference in Tokyo in 1990. After the Paris Peace Agreement was signed in 1991, Japan played an active role in building peace in Cambodia and supporting the reconstruction process. Japan dispatched personnel to the UN PKO for the first time in its history.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Constituent Assembly elections held under UNTAC. We hope that the general elections in July this year will be conducted in a manner that is free, fair and reflects the diverse voices from the Cambodian people.
Japan has also cooperated with Cambodia in its reconstruction and socio-economic development efforts. Japan’s cooperation has not been limited to infrastructure improvement, but has also extended into public health, water supply, education, landmine clearance and human resource development.
In addition, Japan has conducted projects to strengthen governance and the rule of law that is designed to support democratic development in Cambodia.
Last year was a special and very important year for Japan-Cambodia bilateral relations.
Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Japan twice. First, to attend the Asia-Pacific Water Summit in Kumamoto, and again to attend the state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also visited Cambodia twice, in March and November. The Japan-Cambodia summit meetings took place four times during the year.
In November, the two leaders agreed to upgrade bilateral relations to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”. It is vitally important that we develop a substantial relationship worthy of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership title from this year.
From my perspective, under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, bilateral relations cannot be dependent upon one party or the other. Under the new partnership, the two countries will work more closely together in addressing the common challenges being faced in the regional and international arena.
And in the bilateral context, the two countries will expand their cooperation into new areas.
Cambodia has given support to Japan’s position on many issues, including UN Security Council Reform, the North Korea abductions issue, Japan’s vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) and Japan’s new National Security Strategy issued last December.
Our shared response to the situation in Ukraine is a prime example of our cooperation on international issues.
Under Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen’s strong leadership, Cambodia expressed its firm stance against the use of force to take territory from other countries in clear violation of the UN Charter, and joined the co-sponsorship of the UN General Assembly resolutions.
Japan and Cambodia not only share the same position on numerous issues, but also collaborate in practice. Recently, the two countries collaborated in the training of Ukrainian demining personnel on how to use a Japanese mine detector.
With regard to bilateral relations, during his visit to Cambodia last March, Prime Minister Kishida identified five priority areas of cooperation.
These include: 1. Important infrastructure development, including the Sihanoukville Port; 2. Security; 3. Economic relations; 4. Democracy and human rights; and 5. New areas of cooperation, such as digital, cyber and economic security.
As for new areas of cooperation, the two countries have already commenced cooperation on cyber security and digital technology. Examples of this cooperation include, in relation to cyber security, the provision of equipment to enhance the capacity of CamCERT (the Cambodia Computer Emergency Response Team) to deal with cyber security incidents.
With reference to digital technology, Japan is cooperating with the Cambodia-Japan Digital Manufacturing Center (CJDM) at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in the development of high-skilled human resources to work in the industrial sector.
Furthermore, defence and security cooperation between the two countries is strengthened. At the invitation of Lieutenant General Hun Manet, Commander of the Royal Cambodian Army, Yoshida Yoshihide, Chief of Staff of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, visited Cambodia last week. Vessels from the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force will make portcalls in a couple of months.
As to economic relations between the two countries, Japanese investment has gradually returned to Cambodia after Covid-19, as is evidenced by Toyota’s decision to establish an assembly plant in Cambodia.
I recognise that one of my most important roles as Ambassador is to appeal to Japanese companies to invest in Cambodia.
In order to ensure that our solid bilateral relationship continues into the future, people-to-people exchanges and the building and maintaining of long-lasting trust are crucial.
Through active cultural and artistic exchanges, tourism, overseas study programmes and technical training, we hope to build trust between the people of Japan and Cambodia. From February 23-26, the Japan-Cambodia Kizuna Festival will be held at the Cambodia-Japan Cooperation Center (CJCC).
I hope the Cambodian people will take these opportunities to become even closer to Japan.
Last year, Cambodia successfully chaired ASEAN. This year Cambodia will host the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and the ASEAN Para Games, and I wish Cambodia much success with those Games.
On the occasion of our National Day, I wish Their Majesties, the Emperor and the Empress of Japan, His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia, Her Majesty the Queen-Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk and the peoples of Cambodia and Japan, good health, happiness and prosperity.
I also wish for the friendship between Japan and Cambodia to continue to flourish.
HE Ueno Atsushi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Kingdom of Cambodia.