Date:February 5, 2009
At the Temporary Residence
I am extremely glad to have an opportunity to visit Viet Nam at the invitation of the country. I will be able to make my first visit to the country, as a result of the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Viet Nam that occurred last year. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Viet Nam for this invitation. I am aware that relations between Japan and Viet Nam are currently growing closer across a broad range of sectors. I will indeed be happy if my visit to Viet Nam contributes in some way to further promoting the friendship and goodwill between our countries and our peoples. Moreover, this upcoming visit to Viet Nam will be my first official visit to the Mekong region. Therefore, I hope that this visit will be a deeply significant one that will make it clear that this region is indeed important to Japan, and that it will result in a further strengthening of relations between the Mekong region and Japan. As far as visits to the Mekong region are concerned, I have in the past visited the Kingdom of Thailand. I recall that during that visit my plane flew over the city of Danang, which is located in the central part of Viet Nam, which I am scheduled to visit this time.
When I think of Viet Nam, I have the impression of a powerful nation, brimming with vitality, that has achieved a dramatic development in recent years as a result of the nation-building efforts made by each and every one of the Vietnamese people after overcoming the pains of war and a period of difficulty that spanned many years. Moreover, the people of Viet Nam have received high praise for being very aspiring and hardworking. Viet Nam's food supply self-sufficiency ratio exceeds 100 percent, and it is blessed with abundant natural resources in terms of both petroleum and natural gas. Both Japan and Viet Nam share common cultural traditions and history; both our nations have a staple diet of rice, both our peoples use chopsticks, and both nations have adopted Chinese characters in their writing systems. I feel that Viet Nam is very familiar.
In addition to the relations and developments of recent years, Japan and Viet Nam share a long history of exchange. In ancient times, Abeno Nakamaro, whose poem is included in Kokinshu, visited Viet Nam. From the 16th century to the 17th century, many Japanese merchants visited the country and a Japanese town was built in the port city of Hoi An located in the central part of the country. It reached the height of prosperity in the period of the trading ships authorized by the shogunate and prospered as a crossroads along the east-west trade route. Moreover, the northern city of Pho Hien also developed as a prosperous trading port. From Japan the major exports were copper and copper coins, while from Viet Nam the main exports were raw silk, aloes wood, sugar and porcelain. During this trip, I will visit Hoi An and I am really looking forward to seeing the Japanese town and artifacts that were traded in those times.
In addition, I learned that during my visit to the ancient capital of Hue, which is located in the central part of the country, I will have an opportunity to listen to traditional Vietnamese Court Music, Nha Nhac, at the Hue Academy of Music. Traditional Japanese Imperial Court Music gagaku and Vietnamese Nha Nhac are both written in exactly the same Chinese characters, and amongst the Japanese gagaku pieces there is a work that is said to have been brought to Japan in the 8th century by monks from the kingdom of Rinyu, which was located in the central part of Viet Nam. This piece has been carried on to this day as "Rinyu Gaku" within the Japanese Imperial Family. I feel close ties between Japan and Viet Nam.
Relations between Japan and Viet Nam have now grown very close, as is clear from our agreement to build a "Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia." The year before last President Nguyen Minh Triet came to Japan as a State Guest. Our two nations have agreed to an economic partnership agreement and economic relations are expected to develop still further. Each year approximately 400,000 Japanese visit Viet Nam and more than 30,000 Vietnamese visit Japan, and I am aware that Viet Nam has grown extremely close to Japan.
It is in this context that last year our nations celebrated the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. To celebrate this, a Viet Nam festival was held in September, and I had an opportunity to attend the opening ceremony. Some 150,000 people participated in this festival and I keenly felt the passion and dynamism of the people from both of our nations who gathered there.
I believe that in order to further enhance these good relations between our countries and to strengthen ties of trust and friendship, the role of young generations is particularly important. During this trip I will visit the Nguyen Dinh Chieu School for Blind Students in Hanoi, the Hue Academy of Music in Hue, and the Vietnam-Japan Human Resources Cooperation Center in Ho Chi Minh City. Furthermore, I am scheduled to pay a visit to the Japanese school and to meet with members of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers who are active throughout Viet Nam. I am looking forward to seeing for myself the activities undertaken by the youth of both of our nations, and to listening to what they have to say.
During this visit I will have a chance to observe the sites and cultures of Viet Nam that have deep ties with Japan, as well as the beautiful natural settings of Viet Nam. I will pay a courtesy call on President Triet, and will meet with Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan and the heads of regional governments. I will also have the opportunity to meet Vietnamese people who are contributing to building friendly relations between our two nations, as well as to meet Japanese nationals residing in Viet Nam. I am very glad that I will have the precious opportunity to contribute to bringing our nations even closer together in friendship. In addition to that, I intend to deepen my own understanding of the nation of Viet Nam and its people.
This visit will give me my first opportunity to see the Mekong River up close. I am looking forward to this opportunity to learn more about the Mekong River, as a waterway, including its water, which is a research theme that holds particular interest for me. In 2007, at the request of the United Nations Secretary-General, I assumed the post of Honorary President of the Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. The Mekong River is an international river that flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam. The Mekong River delta is an area with an abundance of exchanges amongst the countries that it overlaps, centering on exchanges of the agricultural products that grow in that abundant natural setting. I am aware that this process has given rise to the formulation of a framework for international cooperation on the use of water and waterways. Viet Nam, which I will be visiting, is located at the very end of the Mekong River, and the rich and abundant delta region that exists in its downstream areas, sustains the economy of Viet Nam, and is one of the most bountiful regions in the world for harvesting grain. However, I have also heard that from time to time, flooding results in damage to this region. I am looking forward to this opportunity to see with my own eyes the actual situation prevailing around this mighty Asian river.
In addition, this year is the year of exchange between Japan and the nations of the Mekong region. I am aware that various exchange activities are taking place with a view to strengthening relations between Japan and the Mekong region. I am very glad that in such a special year I will have the opportunity to visit Viet Nam and actually see for myself the Mekong River.
Princess Masako also appreciated it from her heart that she was invited by Viet Nam. Not only Princess Masako but I, too, find it regrettable that she is not able to visit the country. I continue to view overseas visits as precious opportunities to enhance mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and other countries. At the same time, Princess Masako is still undergoing medical treatment and plans for her overseas visits need to be considered with caution, in terms of travel distances, the lengths of the visits, events scheduled during the stays, and other matters. For the upcoming visit, based on the comprehensive assessment and following consultation with her doctors, I have decided to visit the country alone. I must reiterate that we greatly regret that we are not able to respond to the courtesy of the invitation by Viet Nam and the good wishes of the people of the country. I would nevertheless appreciate it if these circumstances met with understanding.
As for future overseas visits, I think we will make decisions on a case-by-case basis, while consulting with her doctors. Basically, as I have reiterated in the past, I will continue to view overseas visits as precious opportunities in enhancing friendly ties between Japan and other countries. I would very much appreciate your understanding that Princess Masako is striving very hard to be able to carry out as many official duties as possible. I would further appreciate it if you would continue to watch over her warmly with a long-range view.
The issue of water is an important challenge amongst the environmental and resource problems, including global warming, that the world faces today. I personally have a great interest in this issue. Furthermore, I have assumed the post of Honorary President of the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, at the request of the Secretary-General. As such, I am making efforts, through my participation in international conferences, among other events, so that a broad range of people gain awareness of the importance of water issues. The Mekong River, which I will observe in the course of my upcoming tour, is a major international river of this region. I sincerely hope this visit will help to deepen my research and in turn contribute in some way to my official duties.