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Japanese FM outlines agenda for maiden Cambodia visit

In her maiden visit to Cambodia, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Kamikawa Yoko, along with Cambodian leaders, will discuss a new approach for the Cambodia-Japan relationship and cooperation.

The Japanese Foreign Minister will also take this opportunity to enhance landmine-clearance cooperation in Southeast Asia, with the support of Japan.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that Japan’s Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko will pay an official visit to Cambodia Friday and Saturday this week.

In its statement, a ministry spokesman said Kamikawa will be paying separate courtesy calls to Senate President Hun Sen and Prime Minister Hun Manet. She will also be holding a bilateral meeting with her Cambodian counterpart, Sok Chenda Sophea.

“The visit by Her Excellency Kamikawa Yoko will keep the momentum of frequent high-level exchanges and further deepen the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Cambodia and Japan,” the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said.

In a recent press conference, Kamikawa announced her plan to visit Cambodia and the Philippines this month.

“From the 5th to the 9th of July, if circumstances allow, I will visit Cambodia and the Philippines for the first time as Foreign Minister,” she said while addressing the press in Tokyo.

She added that the visit, marking the 50th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan friendship and cooperation, aims to deepen heartfelt relations and address current issues.

“We will confirm the progress of the concrete cooperation in Cambodia through meetings with key decision makers in the government, including Sok Chenda Sophea, the Foreign Minister,” she said. “We will enhance the relationship with the Hun Manet administration based on long-term cooperation and development in Cambodia. We will make the new approach of bilateral cooperation.”

Kamikawa said that one main issue that she will focus on during the visit to Cambodia and the Philippines will be to facilitate both Southeast Asian countries’ efforts and cooperation on mine clearance.

“Japan has been cooperating with the Cambodia Mine Action Centre for many years, and it has become a leading mine action centre, not only in Cambodia but also extending its support to third countries, including Ukraine,” she added. “Taking advantage of the opportunity my visit to Cambodia offers, we would like to indicate the possibility of mine action support in the Philippines as well.”

Kamikawa added that she will hold a “two-plus-two” security dialogue involving Japanese and Philippine defence and foreign ministers while in Manila, adding that Japan will boost its support for stateless residents of the Philippines who were born to Japanese nationals and were left there amid the turmoil following World War II.

While meeting Chenda Sophea in December last year in Japan, Kamikawa already stated that she welcomes advances in cooperation with Cambodia in the areas of demining and peacebuilding, and, in the area of landmines in particular, cooperation is already advanced for demining assistance in third countries, including in Ukraine, and the two ministers confirmed their continued collaboration.

She added that Japan intends to further advance cooperation in security, digital, and cybersecurity measures. Kamikawa also stated that Japan intends to revitalise intellectual, cultural, and people-to-people exchanges through the “Next-Generation Co-Creation Partnership: WA Project 2.0” and exchange programmes, including JENESYS (Japan East-Asia Exchange for Students and Youths).

Japan stands out as Cambodia’s top donor country, having provided $1.2 billion in official development assistance since 1992.

According to Heng Ratana, Director-General of CMAC, Japan has been playing an exceptional role in helping Cambodia obtain advanced modern technology for clearing landmines as well as training deminers. For instance, Japan last year approved a grant of over $1.39 million for the clearing of cluster munitions, landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the country.

“Japan will also provide nearly $14 million to build the world’s largest anti-personnel mine-shaped museum and a mine action training centre in Siem Reap and Kampong Chhnang provinces,” Ratana added.

“Thanks to Japan’s assistance, Cambodia has grown to become a country that is even able to help other countries solve their landmine issues.”

Yang Peou, Secretary-General of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the visit by the new Japanese Foreign Minister will open more doors for more positive cooperation between the countries and unconditional assistance from Japan.

“Japan, as a great friend of Cambodia, has helped the Kingdom in every sector,” he said. “Even regarding politics, especially elections, Japan has never expressed any doubt or concern over the democratic process in Cambodia.”

“We hope that through the visit, both countries will discover more paths for cooperation, either bilateral or multilateral,” Peou added.

A veteran politician with an impressive résumé, Kamikawa’s academic background includes the University of Tokyo and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She also served as a policy staff fellow for then-US Senator Max Baucus. In her political career, she was Japan’s Justice Minister three times and Minister of State for Gender Equality and Social Affairs.

In September 2023, Kamikawa became Japan’s first female Foreign Minister in 20 years. Since her appointment, she has demonstrated her diplomatic skills through several high-profile overseas visits, including to the Middle East, Ukraine, and a tour of Europe and North America. In January this year, Kamikawa launched a new “Women, Peace, and Security (WPS)” task force to address gender-inclusive security issues. While maintaining Japan’s long-term foreign policy stance as a proactive contributor to peace, her energetic diplomatic efforts have brought her significant international recognition.

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