Government spokesperson Pen Bona expresses optimism about Japanese finance minister Shunichi Suzuki’s “strategic visit” to the Kingdom, reportedly set for early January, regarding it as another pivotal moment in Cambodia-Japan ties. 

Suzuki reportedly announced at a December 26 press conference his intention to visit Sri Lanka and Cambodia from January 4-9 to strengthen ties with the two Asian nations.

The minister was quoted by foreign media as saying that he would work closely with Cambodia to enhance bilateral friendship as the two countries commemorate their 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year. 

Bona noted that as of December 28, he had not received official information regarding the visit, only learning about it through the media.

Nevertheless, he voiced optimism that such a visit would further enrich the current bilateral relationship between the two countries, touting it as a testament to the effective cooperation between the two nations for mutual interests. 

“Japan has significantly contributed to the rebuilding of Cambodia in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge. It is currently playing a large role in international cooperation, which is beneficial for Cambodia,” Bona said, adding that leaders of the two countries had recently expressed their commitment to enhance their partnership and mutual support.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, noted that the visit would solidify the comprehensive strategic partnership which the two countries had upgraded earlier this year. 

“We hope that during his visit, [Suzuki] will consider offering further assistance to Cambodia in infrastructure development, as Japan has greatly supported Cambodia in the sector through both grants and concessional loans,” he said.

He also urged the minister to look into investment opportunities for Japanese financers, such as in factories, logistics and transport. 

Amid geopolitical contests in the Indo-Pacific, Phea viewed the visit, more or less, as an effort to contain China from gaining strength in the region. Regardless, he urged the Cambodian government to pursue ‘diplomatic diversification’ by balancing relations with all countries.

Trade volume between Cambodia and Japan reached $1.6 billion in the first 11 months of 2023. The Kingdom’s exports for the period were worth more than $1 billion and imports from Japan were valued at $573 million, according to the General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE).