Vietnam's president left for Japan yesterday for the first visit by a head of state from the communist country to its largest aid donor and one of its leading foreign investors.
Ahead of the five-day visit, Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet said he looked forward to both sides soon freeing up trade and investment flows with an economic partnership agreement (EPA) that would transform bilateral ties.
The president was joined by key ministers and more than 100 business executives, the Thanh Nien daily reported.
Triet last week said he welcomed Japan's offers to help build a north-south railway and highway links and a high-tech industrial zone, and he also encouraged more investors from the economic powerhouse to come to Vietnam.
"I would like to call on Japanese investors to help manage the massive traffic problems in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi," he said, referring to the congested streets in Vietnam's largest city and the capital.
Triet also thanked Japan for its overseas development aid, which had topped US$11 billion and made up about a third of the total aid to Vietnam over the past 15 years, the state-run Vietnam News daily reported.
Speaking about the 54 deaths in the September collapse of a bridge being built in the southern Mekong delta by Japanese companies, Triet said the incident was unfortunate but would not impede relations, state media said.
Japan and Vietnam established bilateral ties in 1973, when the Southeast Asian nation was still at war. Today the developing country is a fast-emerging economy that last year recorded over 8 percent economic growth.
Two-way trade between Japan and Vietnam topped US$10 billion this year, state media said, and Japan had more than 900 investment projects worth about US$8.8 billion in Vietnam as of last month.
Vietnam, which is set to join the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member next year, has also sought to become a more prominent regional diplomatic player, hosting talks early this year between Japan and North Korea.