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Vietnam and Cambodia

Stability in Indochina also is very important to Japanese interests. During the Indochina War of the 1960s and 1970s, Japan had consistently encouraged a negotiated settlement at the earliest possible date. Even before the hostilities ended, it had made contact with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) government and had reached an agreement to establish diplomatic relations in September 1973. Implementation, however, was delayed by North Vietnamese demands that Japan pay the equivalent of US$45 million in World War II reparations in two yearly installments, in the form of "economic cooperation" grants. Giving in to the Vietnamese demands, Japan paid the money and opened an embassy in Hanoi in October 1975 following the unification of North Vietnam and South Vietnam into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Recognition of the communist Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia came in 1975, and diplomatic relations with that country were established in August 1976.

This Indochina policy was justified at home and to the member countries of ASEAN--some of which were hostile to and suspicious of Vietnam--on the grounds that official contacts and eventually aid to Vietnam would promote the peace and stability of Southeast Asia as a whole. In December 1978, after a visit to Tokyo by Vietnam's minister of foreign affairs, Nguyen Duy Trinh, Japan agreed to give Vietnam US$195 million in grant aid, as well as commodity loans and food shipments. When Vietnam launched its invasion of Cambodia later that same month, Japan was embarrassed and irritated. It joined ASEAN in condemning the invasion, supported the UN resolution calling for immediate withdrawal of Vietnamese forces, and suspended the aid commitments it had made with Hanoi.

Japan and the United States shared common ground in opposing the Soviet-backed Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978. Japan's policy of restricting aid and other economic cooperation with Vietnam reinforced international pressures on Hanoi to pull back its forces and seek a comprehensive Cambodian settlement. Faced with international isolation, waning Soviet bloc support, continued armed resistance in Cambodia, and large-scale economic problems at home, Hanoi withdrew most if not all of its combat troops from Cambodia in 1989. It appealed to developed countries to open channels of economic cooperation, trade, and aid. Although some Japanese businesses were interested in investment and trade with Vietnam and Cambodia, the Japanese government still opposed economic cooperation with those countries until there had been a comprehensive settlement in Cambodia. This stand was basically consistent with United States policy of the time.

Meanwhile, Japan gave informal assurances that Tokyo was prepared to bear a large share of the financial burden to help with reconstruction aid to Cambodia, whenever a comprehensive settlement was reached, and to help fund UN or other international peacekeeping forces, should they be required.

Japan carried through on its promises. Following the October 23, 1991 Final Act of the International Paris Conference on Cambodia among the Cambodian parties, Indonesia (as co-chair with France), and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Japan promptly established diplomatic relations and ended economic restrictions with Cambodia and Vietnam. In November 1992, Tokyo offered Vietnam US$370 million in aid. Japan also took a leading role in peacekeeping activities in Cambodia. Japan's Akashi Yasushi, UN undersecretary for disarmament, was head of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia, and Japan pledged US$3 million and even sent approximately 2,000 personnel, including members of the SDF, to participate directly in maintaining the peace. Despite the loss of a Japanese peacekeeper killed in an ambush, the force remained in Cambodia until the Cambodians were able to elect and install a government.

Data as of January 1994