I  am delighted to be able to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan with the people of Cambodia.

It has been a little over a year since I arrived in Phnom Penh as Ambassador, and I have been warmly welcomed by Cambodian people wherever I go and whoever I meet. During my year here, I have realized how friendly Cambodia is to Japan.

This year began with two tragic events in Japan – the Noto Peninsula Earthquake and the plane crash at Haneda Airport. In both cases, however, the Japanese people were greatly encouraged by the heartfelt condolences and warm words of sympathy from many Cambodian people. I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude.

Firstly, let us look back on 2023, when we marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Cambodia, a significant milestone in the history of our relationship. During the 70th anniversary year, we successfully hosted more than 70 events in Cambodia alone.

I am convinced that these events, which were held seamlessly throughout the year and attended by a large number of people, have deepened the mutual understanding and friendship between the peoples of our two countries and have brought the relationship between Japan and Cambodia closer than ever.

H.E. Ueno Atsushi, the Ambassador of Japan to Cambodia. SUPPLIED

Our bilateral relationship was upgraded to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” last year, and the vibrant exchanges and interactions that took place throughout the year have confirmed our belief in this new partnership.

Last year was also a major turning point for Cambodia, with the appointment of the first new Prime Minister for 38 years and the establishment of the new Cabinet led by Samdech Moha Borvor Thipadei Prime Minister HUN Manet.

The Government of Japan has paid close attention to the “Pentagonal Strategy Phase 1” that was launched by the new Cabinet shortly after Samdech Thipadei’s inauguration, as well as the new Cabinet’s efforts to put in place numerous reforms.

Last December, Samdech Thipadei Prime Minister made the first visit to Japan as Prime Minister when he attended the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit that was held to mark the 50th year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.

Throughout his stay in Japan, Samdech Thipadei Prime Minister maintained a busy schedule, which was similar to one in Cambodia. I believe that many of you have witnessed, through the media, the efforts of Samdech Thipadei Prime Minister in taking the lead to attract investment from Japan to Cambodia.

The Japan-Cambodia Summit Meeting in Tokyo last December. Cabinet Public Affairs Office, Government of Japan

Indeed, this visit to Japan has resulted in significant achievements in the further advancement of Japan-Cambodia relations, and this has greatly encouraged me.

During the summit meeting between Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio and Samdech Thipadei HUN Manet on December 18, both leaders confirmed their plans for collaboration in areas such as digitalization, energy, and enhancing connectivity.

The Japanese government has confirmed its support, through Official Development Assistance (ODA), for the establishment of the National Data Center, which will play a pivotal role in realizing Cambodia’s digital government. The signing of the Exchange of Notes for this project, in the presence of both leaders, demonstrated the direction for the future cooperation between our two countries.

In addition, we have reached agreements on numerous collaboration projects involving the Japanese private sector and the Cambodian government, and this demonstrates well the advancement of cooperation 
in terms of both the quantity and scope.

We, at the Embassy of Japan, will make every effort to ensure that many more cooperation projects come to fruition in 2024.

The international community is currently testing our determination to maintain a free and open international order based on the rule of law in many ways.

Besides this, the challenges that both Japan and Cambodia face in the international community are becoming increasingly diverse and complex.

This is due to a number of factors, such as the development of a digital society and the need for us to respond to global issues such as climate change and the threats posed by infectious diseases.

The 2023 Japan-Cambodia Kizuna Festival took place at the CJCC from February 24-26. SUPPLIED

I believe that it is in addressing these issues that the true value of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership will be tested. My understanding is  that “comprehensive strategic partnership” means Japan and Cambodia working as partners, hand in hand, to address not only bilateral issues, but also regional and international challenges.

A good example of this is the joint training of Ukrainian demining personnel carried out by Japan and Cambodia in January and July of last year.

We would like to encourage more of this kind of cooperation in the future.

Japan intends to promote cooperation in areas such as digital technology and connectivity enhancement, which are currently becoming prioritized agenda for Cambodia, the wider region and the international community as a whole.

By doing so, I believe that Japan and Cambodia can strengthen our partnership in a way that promotes further, mutually beneficial, development and addresses the challenges of the region and the international community. We can do this as partners bound by strong bonds of trust.

At the same time, we will continue to support Cambodia in achieving sustainable development through ODA.

For example, in the digital sector, the leaders of our two countries agreed on “the List of items of Co-Creation for Common Agenda Initiative in the digital area for Cambodia” at the summit meeting last December. This is the first case of cooperation as a “Co-Creation for Common Agenda Initiative”, which was launched in Japan’s Development Cooperation Charter revised in June last year. 

It is a new type of cooperation in a sense that the Japanese government tries its best to work together with its counterparts to find and propose solution models for emerging issues.

This year, we will accelerate discussions with the Cambodian government to realize more specific projects on the basis of this type of cooperation.

Furthermore, we recognize that human resource development is one of the top priorities for the Cambodian government, so we will also continue our support in this regard.

In terms of the political and security sectors, Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels are currently docked at the Port of Sihanoukville and a goodwill exercise with the Royal Cambodian Navy, which is stationed at Ream Naval Base, is scheduled.

We are pleased to see that exchanges between our naval forces are developing alongside the exchanges between our two land forces, which have been successfully taking place for a long time.

In addition, the first round of the Japan-Cambodia Defense Senior Officials’ Dialogue, which was agreed upon at the summit meeting in December last year, is scheduled to be held in Cambodia next week.

Japan also continues to support Cambodia’s democratic development. From this perspective, the Government of Japan conducted, for the sixth time, an invitation program for the young people of Cambodia who are involved in politics.

It ran from January 31 to February 7, 2024 and representatives from nine political parties, including both the ruling and opposition parties, participated.

The Angkor Wat Western Causeway Construction Completion Ceremony. Sophia University

This program provided an opportunity for the participants to observe how the democratic system works in Japan and learn how to interact with those who belong to different political parties. We will continue to support the development of an environment where diverse opinions are respected in Cambodia.

People-to-people exchanges and trust will provide the foundations for a good bilateral relationship in the future. We hope that two-way exchanges between Japan and Cambodia will be further accelerated through tourism, academic initiatives, and employment.

The Government of Japan will encourage people who are interested in staying in Japan to do so through scholarships and various exchange programs.

In the context of cultural exchanges, I would like to mention that the Japan-Cambodia Kizuna Festival is held being at CJCC right now and will continue until February 25.

I hope that many of you will go and enjoy the cultural exchanges and experiences that are taking place there.
Through the initiatives I have already mentioned, we can expect to see development in the bilateral relationship across many fields, but this cannot be achieved by our governments alone. It will also require the involvement of a broad cross section of people.

We will take advantage of the momentum created by the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations last year to strengthen the exchanges between our two countries at various levels and across various fields. I, therefore, ask for the continued understanding and support of the Cambodian people in strengthening our relationship.

This year is the Year of the Dragon, and it is said that the Year of the Dragon brings visible changes.

With this in mind, we would, during this Year of Dragon, like to achieve significant and visible developments in Japan-Cambodia relations, which are already bound firmly by trust and friendship. 

Finally, I would like to wish you all a healthy and happy year ahead. 

H.E. UENO Atsushi, the Ambassador of Japan to Cambodia