Diplomatic Bluebook 2022

Chapter 2

Japan's Foreign Policy by Region

4 Southeast Asia

(1) Indonesia

As a major country in the Southeast Asia region with the fourth largest population in the world (at approximately 270 million people), Indonesia plays a leading role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In addition, it has been showing initiative for various challenges facing the international community as a G20 member.

President Joko's second administration, which started in October 2019, is a stable administration where the ruling party occupies approximately 82% of the seats in the People's Consultative Assembly. This administration is working on (1) infrastructure development, (2) human resources development, (3) investment promotion, (4) bureaucratic reforms, and (5) appropriate execution of the state budget as its priorities. Indonesia's economic growth rate, which had consistently been maintained at around 5% in recent years, recorded negative growth in 2020 due to the impacts of COVID-19. As a strategic partner, Japan is actively promoting cooperation in infrastructure development and human resources development, which are priorities of the second Joko administration, and, in order to take measures against COVID-19 and strengthen Indonesia's health and medical systems, Japan is also providing assistance such as medical equipment and approximately 6.88 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines (as of February 2022).

While international travel was restricted by the global spread of COVID-19, in 2021 Prime Minister Kishida held a Japan-Indonesia Summit telephone call (November) with President Joko, Foreign Minister Motegi met with Foreign Minister Retno four times (February, March, April, and June), and Foreign Minister Hayashi had a telephone call (December) with Foreign Minister Retno. At these meetings, Japan and Indonesia closely exchanged opinions on strengthening bilateral relations as well as on cooperation between the two countries on a variety of issues in the region and in the international community. Furthermore, Foreign Minister Motegi had face-to-face Japan-Indonesia Foreign Ministers' Meetings in March, June, and September to exchange views on bilateral relations as well as on regional affairs such as maritime issues and the situation in Myanmar.

Japan and Indonesia are also deepening their security cooperation, and in March Foreign Minister Motegi and Defense Minister Kishi held the Second Japan-Indonesia Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting (“2+2”) in Tokyo with Foreign Minister Retno and Defense Minister Prabowo. On the occasion of this meeting, Foreign Minister Motegi and Defense Minister Prabowo signed the Agreement concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, which had been negotiated since 2015, and concurred to further deepen the bilateral security cooperation with the Agreement serving as its basis. The four Ministers also concurred that Japan and Indonesia will promote cooperation in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and surrounding areas as well as other maritime cooperation.

Second Japan-Indonesia Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting (“2+2”) (March 30, Tokyo)Second Japan-Indonesia Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting (“2+2”) (March 30, Tokyo)
Signing of the Japan-Indonesia Agreement concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology (March 30, Tokyo)Signing of the Japan-Indonesia Agreement concerning the Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology
(March 30, Tokyo)

(2) Cambodia

Cambodia is located at a strategic point along the Southern Economic Corridor, and is a key country in strengthening connectivity and narrowing the development gap in the region. Cambodia had been averaging approximately 7% growth for the past 20 years, but GDP in 2020 was negative 3.1% due to the impacts of COVID-19. Japan has been cooperating with Cambodia by providing approximately 1.32 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines (as of February 2022).

Japan has cooperated on the peace process in Cambodia, through such actions as the deployment of full-scale PKO in 1992, which was the first time for Japan to do so, and on the subsequent reconstruction and development after the achievement of peace. Bilateral relations were elevated to a “Strategic Partnership” in 2013. In November 2021 Foreign Minister Hayashi and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn held a telephone call, and in December Prime Minister Kishida and Prime Minister Hun Sen held telephone calls to exchange opinions on bilateral relations and regional affairs. As Cambodia is presiding over the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2022, both sides have agreed to cooperate for the success of the conference.

Regarding domestic affairs, the ruling Cam­bodian People's Party monopolized all seats in the 2018 National Assembly elections as the largest opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, was dissolved in 2017. Following this, the Cambodian government announced measures to improve the democratic environment, such as promoting domestic dialogue and expediting judicial proceedings. As part of its efforts to boost Cambodia's democratic development, Japan has been supporting legal reform and implementing projects to promote dialogue between the government and civil society.

In the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, which Japan has been supporting for many years, the final hearing for the appeal in case 2-02 (former head of state as defendant) was held in August, and it is highly likely that the tribunal will be completed with a verdict scheduled for 2022.

Japan-Cambodia Leaders' Video Conference (December 1, Tokyo; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)Japan-Cambodia Leaders' Video Conference (December 1, Tokyo; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)

(3) Singapore

Singapore is the most economically advanced country within ASEAN. Based on its omnidirectional foreign policy, the country maintains friendly relations with major countries including the U.S. and China.

In Singapore, the People's Action Party (PAP), led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, holds more than 90% of the seats from the 2020 general elections, and, with the basis of a stable political situation, is working to balance the economy and measures to combat COVID-19, including through promoting digitalization.

Although COVID-19 has reduced the opportunities for high level officials to travel between Japan and Singapore, in 2021 telephone calls were held between Prime Minister Suga and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in May, between Prime Minister Kishida and Prime Minister Lee in November, and between Foreign Minister Hayashi and Foreign Minister Balakrishnan in December, exchanging opinions on bilateral cooperation for a variety of regional issues. In terms of face-to-face meetings, the 15th Japan-Singapore Vice Minister-Level Policy Meeting was held in Tokyo in April to exchange opinions on bilateral relations and regional affairs. In August, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Kokuba Konosuke visited Singapore and exchanged opinions with Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Communications and Information SIM Ann, on cooperation in measures to combat COVID-19 and in economic and security fields such as cooperation to realize a green society, digital cooperation, infrastructure cooperation in third-party countries, and maintaining and strengthening a multilateral free trade system. The two countries have worked together to provide developing countries with technical assistance through the “Japan-Singapore Partnership Program for the 21st Century (JSPP21),” which was signed in 1997. To date they have provided training approximately 400 courses with roughly 7,000 participants from ASEAN countries and other regions.

The Japan Creative Centre (JCC), which was opened in Singapore in 2009 as a platform to promote Japanese culture, distributed a variety of information and held events while taking measures against COVID-19 infections.

Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Kokuba meeting with Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Communications and Information Sim (August 11, Singapore)Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Kokuba meeting with Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Communications and Information Sim
(August 11, Singapore)

(4) Thailand

Thailand is one of the original member states of ASEAN, which was born of the “Bangkok Declaration” in 1967. It is located in the center of the Mekong region and is a geopolitically important country.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Thailand dates back to the “Declaration of Amity and Commerce between Japan and Siam (Declaration of Amity)” in 1887. The current bilateral relations is a “Strategic Partnership” in which both countries cooperate not only bilaterally, but also in the region and the international community. In addition, as a result of many years of official development assistance and investment by private companies from Japan, Thailand has become a major production center for Japanese companies, including the automobile industry, and today Thailand is an indispensable part of the Japanese economy as a part of the global supply chain, with close to 6,000 Japanese companies operating in Thailand and more than 80,000 Japanese nationals living in Thailand.

Due to restrictions on travel following the spread of COVID-19, no in-person visits by dignitaries were conducted in 2021. Despite that, telephone calls were held between Prime Minister Suga and Prime Minister Prayut in April, between Prime Minister Kishida and Prime Minister Prayut in November, between Foreign Minister Motegi and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Don in March and August, and between Foreign Minister Hayashi and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Don in November. Furthermore, in August the Fifth Meeting of the Japan-Thailand High Level Joint Commission was held online as a place to exchange opinions for promoting cooperation in the economic fields of both countries. Foreign Minister Motegi and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Don served as co-chairs, the relevant ministries and agencies from both countries participated, and high-level exchanges continued.

On the domestic front of Thailand, against a background of economic and social disparities and the deterioration of the economic situation due to the spread of COVID-19, protests against the government and the monarchy have become active, especially among young people, and the unstable situation is continuing. Japan has been cooperating with Thailand to help stabilize its economy and society during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as by providing approximately 2.04 million doses of vaccines to Thailand (as of February 2022).

Fifth Meeting of the Japan-Thailand High Level Joint Commission (August 11)Fifth Meeting of the Japan-Thailand High Level Joint Commission (August 11)

(5) Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste, the first country that achieved independence in the 21st century (in 2002), is strategically important in the Indo-Pacific region, and is situated in a critical sea lane between Australia and Indonesia. The country has realized peace and stability with the support of the international community and has been building the nation based on democracy. As its economy is highly dependent on natural resources such as petroleum and natural gas, the country has been working to diversify its industry as a matter of the highest national priority. On the diplomatic side, Timor-Leste continues to work on coordination with ASEAN countries toward joining ASEAN, which is the most important diplomatic issue for Timor-Leste.

Japan has continued to support Timor-Leste since even before its independence, and maintained good relations with the country. In 2021 Japan provided food to areas affected by floods and COVID-19, and supported the training of young administrative officers. Additionally, Japan and Timor-Leste signed an exchange of notes on the development plan for Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport. In response to the spread of COVID-19, Japan has provided approximately 170,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines (as of February 2022) and is also providing support such as provision of medical equipment.

(6) The Philippines

The Philippines had consistently maintained a high growth rate of 6% or more since 2012, but in 2020 a negative growth rate of 9.6% year on year was recorded due to the impact of restrictions on domestic economic activities that were introduced upon the spread of COVID-19. However, the growth rate bounced back to positive 5.6% in 2021, year on year. President Duterte maintained high public confidence in his COVID-19 control measures, and continued to exercise strong leadership in response to priority issues such as anti-corruption, public safety and counter-terrorism. As for the Mindanao Peace Process, which experienced delay in the decommissioning and disarmament work with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) due to COVID-19, the Bangsamoro Organic Law was amended, and the efforts to conceive an autonomous government is continuing toward 2025.

Japan and the Philippines celebrated the 65th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations and the 10th anniversary of the “Strategic Partnership” in 2021. While no dignitary visits took place during the year due to the impacts of COVID-19, Summit telephone calls by Prime Minister Suga and Prime Minister Kishida with President Duterte, in May and in December were held respectively, alongside Foreign Ministers' telephone calls by Foreign Minister Motegi and Foreign Minister Hayashi with Secretary of Foreign Affairs Locsin, in April and in December, to further strengthen Japan-Philippines relations which are in a “golden age.” They discussed bilateral relations and regional issues, and concurred on strengthening cooperation in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and their surrounding areas.

On the security cooperation front, the 4th Japan-Philippines Maritime Dialogue was held in October, to promote cooperation and exchange views on better maritime security, while deliberations are underway toward the launch of a Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting (“2+2”). Meanwhile, on the economic cooperation front, the 11th Meeting of the Japan-Philippines High Level Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation was held, to affirm that Japan's commitment of one trillion yen in public and private finances in five years from 2017 was fulfilled ahead of schedule, as well as to announce that Japan's commitment to assisting the formulation of the Subic Bay Regional Development Master Plan was accomplished. Overall, Japan continues to render strong support to the Philippines' “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure development program. In addition, as part of the response to COVID-19, Japan extended assistance to the Philippines to facilitate the vaccination system and to provide approximately 3.08 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines (as of February 2022).

(7) Brunei

Its abundance in natural resources has enabled Brunei to realize a high economic standard and generous social welfare. As such, the country enjoys political and economic stability. Although it is a constitutional monarchy and has a Legislative Council, the Sultan concurrently serves as the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Economy, Minister of Defence and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and therefore holds an impressively strong authority. Located in the center of Southeast Asia, the country is one of the claimant countries in the South China Sea and has adopted a balanced diplomacy built on the pillar of promoting ASEAN unity and centrality.

Although Brunei's economic growth is expected to remain positive in 2021, supported by rising oil prices and oil refining operations via a joint oil refining venture with China, the Government of Brunei is aiming for economic diversification to avoid overreliance on energy resources.

As for relations with Japan, diplomatic relations were established in 1984, and the two countries have developed excellent bilateral relations in various areas. In addition, the two countries enjoy a close relationship between the imperial and royal families, and in 2019 His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah attended the Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor. Brunei is an important country for the stable supply of energy resources to Japan. Around 70% of Brunei's liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports are bound for Japan, and LNG from Brunei makes up around 5% of the total LNG import to Japan. Brunei served as the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2021, and against the backdrop of COVID-19, Japan worked closely with Brunei, holding seven Japan-Brunei Foreign Ministers' telephone calls and one face-to-face Japan-Brunei Foreign Ministers' Meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Erywan, who also serves as the ASEAN special envoy, and the two Ministers exchanged opinions on bilateral cooperation, important regional issues, and the situation in Myanmar in particular. Additionally, as support for measures against COVID-19, Japan provided approximately 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines (as of February 2022), and also provided 50,000 medical N95 masks through the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) stockpiling project that is funded by Japan.

(8) Viet Nam

Located next to sea lanes in the South China Sea and sharing a long border with China, Viet Nam is a geopolitically important country. Given that the country embraces the third largest population in Southeast Asia, and is experiencing a surge in the number of people in middle-income brackets, Viet Nam is a promising market. The country is currently striving to achieve stable economic growth through the stabilization of the macroeconomy including control of inflation, the promotion of foreign investment by the development of infrastructure and the improvement of the investment environment. Viet Nam served as the ASEAN Chairman in 2020 and as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council from 2020 to 2021, expanding its role in the international community.

Japan and Viet Nam have been advancing cooperation in a variety of areas under the Extensive Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia. High-level exchanges between the two countries were actively conducted even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and between March and September 2021, there were a total of six telephone calls between the two countries' leaders, legislative presidents, and foreign ministers. In November, Prime Minister Chinh visited Japan as the Kishida administration's first visit from a foreign head of state as a Guest on an official working visit. At the Japan-Viet Nam Summit Meeting, the two leaders confirmed (1) Additional donations of COVID-19 vaccines (7.35 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have already been provided as of the end of February 2022) and cooperation in COVID-19 measures such as public-private collaboration in cooperative vaccine development, (2) Cooperation for post-COVID-19 economic revitalization, such as the DX Initiative between Japan and Viet Nam, the Supply Chain Diversification Initiative, and improving the environment around Vietnamese technical intern trainees, (3) Cooperation on common issues of the international community, such as climate change, (4) Cooperation in the fields of cyber security and hygiene, and in security fields such as improving maritime security capabilities, and (5) Strengthen cooperation toward 2023, the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Viet Nam. Viet Nam has essentially been a country with great affinity toward Japan. The number of Vietnamese visiting Japan grew from about 40,000 in 2011 to over 490,000 in 2019. The number of Vietnamese living in Japan rose from about 40,000 in 2011 to about 430,000 at the end of December 2021, the second largest group of foreign residents after China.

Japan-Viet Nam Summit Meeting (November 24, Tokyo)Japan-Viet Nam Summit Meeting (November 24, Tokyo)

(9) Malaysia

Comprised of the Peninsular Malaysia of the Malay Peninsula and East Malaysia of Borneo, Malaysia is a geopolitically important country facing the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca that is situated in a crucial spot in the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean. In addition, it is a federal state comprised of 13 states and three federal territories, and also a multiethnic state comprised of Bumiputra (Malay including indigenous peoples) (69%), Chinese (23%) and Indian people (7%), among others.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri, who took office in August 2021, is focusing on measures to combat COVID-19 and on economic recovery while stabilizing domestic politics.

Japan has been promoting cooperation, including in the security and economic fields, based on the “Strategic Partnership,” and, in 2021, Japan provided Malaysia with approximately one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, cold chain equipment for vaccines, and medical equipment. Although the number of high level officials' visits between the two countries decreased compared to previous years due to the impacts of COVID-19, there were telephone calls between Prime Minister Kishida and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri in December, as well as between Foreign Minister Hayashi and Foreign Minister Saifuddin in December, and, they exchanged opinions on cooperation between the two countries on regional and international issues, in addition to strengthening bilateral relations.

In the field of human resources development, through the Look East Policy, which serves as a foundation for the good bilateral relationship between Japan and Malaysia and was begun by Prime Minister Mahathir in 1982, more than 26,000 Malaysian people have studied or have been trained in Japan so far. The policy is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2022, so further exchanges between the two countries are expected (see the Column on page 75). The two countries have been cooperating in making the Malaysia Japan International Institute of Technology (MJIIT), which was opened in September 2011, a base for Japanese-style engineering education in ASEAN countries. In addition, discussions are being held to establish a branch school of the University of Tsukuba in Malaysia, and, if realized, it will be the first overseas branch school to be established by a Japanese university. On the economic front, roughly 1,500 Japanese companies have been operating in Malaysia, which demonstrates a continued close relationship between the two countries.

The 40th anniversary of the Look East Policy

Logo of the 40th anniversary of the Look East PolicyLogo of the 40th anniversary of the Look East Policy

2022 marks the 40th anniversary of Malaysia's Look East Policy.

The Look East Policy was proposed by then-Prime Minister Mahathir and began in 1982. Believing that the Japanese work ethic, enthusiasm for learning and working, morals, and management skills were the driving force behind Japan's development, he advocated for learning these from Japan in order to develop Malaysian economy and society.

Under the Look East Policy, a large number of students have been dispatched to Japanese universities and technical colleges. In addition, Japanese private companies, local governments and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have accepted trainees and helped them to acquire industrial technologies and management skills.

The Look East Policy is mainly funded by the Government of Malaysia, but Japanese yen loans enabled the programs to continue when Malaysian public finances faced difficulties caused by the Asian Financial Crisis in the late 1990s.

The policy has continued through successive administrations in Malaysia, and has sent more than 26,000 students and trainees to Japan under this policy. The human resources nurtured by the Look East Policy have not only supported the development of industry and society in Malaysia, but also played an important role as a bridge between Japan and Malaysia. Developing people, who have familiarity and affinity with Japan over many years under this policy is likely to be one reason that Malaysia is now clearly one of the friendliest countries to Japan.

More than half of the Under-Secretary level officials of Malaysian government ministries and agencies have experienced studying or training in Japan including those under the Look East Policy (as of December 2021). Many of those who are succeeding in the business community have either studied or been trained in Japan. The people with Japanese skills and a good knowledge of Japanese work ethics have been encouraging Japanese companies to start business in Malaysia, and thus further producing those who are well-versed in Japan through training programs implemented by each company. Such process is a virtuous cycle of human resource development.

The spirit of the Look East Policy, that is, the development of the economy and society through human resource development, is still meaningful. On the other hand, the Look East Policy has been evolving through adapting to the issues and needs that are changing in response to the changes in society. Japan has not only welcomed students and trainees from Malaysia under the Look East Policy, but also provided assistance for human resource development in Malaysia. The Government of Japan has expanded support from the area of job training such as assistance for the Centre for Instructor and Advanced Skill Training (CIAST) in the 1980s, to the field of higher education including assistance to establish the Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology (MJIIT) in the 2010s as well as to the opening of the University of Tsukuba's branch campus in Malaysia - the first ever branch of a Japanese university abroad.

Graduation ceremony at the University of Malaya for students at the Special Preparatory Program to enter Japanese universities under the Look East Policy (February 2020)Graduation ceremony at the University of Malaya for students at the Special Preparatory Program to enter Japanese universities under the Look East Policy (February 2020)

Through many commemorative events planned in 2022, the Government of Japan will reinforce ties with the various stakeholders and organizations that have contributed to nurturing cooperation between Malaysia and Japan over the past 40 years, which Japan hopes will lead to developing the long-lasting friendship and cooperative partnership between both countries.

(10) Myanmar

A general election was held in Myanmar in November 2020, and the National League for Democracy (NLD) won an overwhelming victory. However, after the general election, the Myanmar Armed Forces asserted that there was election fraud, such as duplication of voter list information. The Government of Myanmar did not accept these claims, and before dawn on February 1, 2021, the Myanmar Armed Forces detained NLD leaders, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. On the same day, the acting president declared state of emergency and delegated full authority to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The people opposed the Myanmar Armed Forces' coup d'état, and the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) spread nationwide. Demonstrations of tens of thousands of people were held on consecutive days in addition to boycotts by officials at public institutions. In response, the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Myanmar Police Force suppressed the protestors by shooting at them.

Japan has grave concerns about the situation in Myanmar. In addition to the statement issued by the Foreign Minister on the day of the coup d'état, Japan has urged the Myanmar Armed Forces to immediately cease the violence against civilians, to release detainees including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and to swiftly restore the democratic political system. Additionally, at the Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers' Meeting in August, Foreign Minister Motegi strongly urged Myanmar to release the detained persons and to swiftly restore Myanmar's democratic political system. Based on the belief that it is important to support ASEAN's efforts to overcome the situation in Myanmar and to achieve concrete results from the “Five-Point Consensus” agreed at the ASEAN Leaders' Meeting held in April, Japan is working closely with ASEAN to realize the dispatch of ASEAN's Special Envoy as well as dialogue with all parties concerned, including pro-democracy forces.

In the international arena, the coup d'état and violence were condemned by the G7 in two G7 Foreign Ministers' Statements, and the G7's position on Myanmar was also clarified in the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers' Meeting Communiqué and in the Carbis Bay G7 Summit Communiqué. At the UN, Japan has been cooperating with the international community participating in consensus (unanimous adoption by all members of the Council) on Human Rights Council resolutions (in February, March, and July) on the situation in Myanmar, participating as a co-sponsor of the resolution in February, voting in favor of the UN General Assembly resolution on Myanmar in June after participating as a co-sponsor, and co-sponsoring a resolution in November at the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee. Furthermore, in March Japan condemned the violence by the Myanmar Armed Forces in a Joint Statement of Chiefs of Defense.

Since February 1, Japan has been actively providing humanitarian assistance through international organizations to directly benefit the people of Myanmar, including 9 million US dollars via the ICRC and WFP for internally displaced persons from Rakhine State and 2.09 million US dollars via UNICEF for cold chain support in March, 4 million US dollars in May via WFP for food aid, and 5.8 million US dollars in July via the UNHCR, WFP, and UNICEF for emergency grant aid, for a total of 20.89 million US dollars in aid provided to Myanmar citizens who are in need due to the coup d'état. In addition, Japan is also providing support for COVID-19-related measures, such as the provision of oxygen concentrators. Japan will take necessary measures while closely monitoring the situation.

(11) Laos

Laos is a land locked country bordering all of the countries in the Mekong region, and therefore is a key country for Mekong connectivity. In domestic affairs in 2021, the 11th Congress of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) was convened in January, and Prime Minister Thongloun was elected as General Secretary of the party. In February the 9th National Assembly election was held, and, at the first session of the National Assembly at the end of March, Prime Minister and General Secretary Thongloun was appointed as President and General Secretary, Vice President Phankham was appointed as the Prime Minister, and the new structure of the Party and government for the next five years was solidified. On the economic front, in August the National Assembly approved a new national agenda on economic and financial issues in addition to the existing five-year national socioeconomic development plan, and specific numerical targets, including a return to economic growth of 4%, were also set. In November, the UN General Assembly approved Laos' graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status, and Laos is expected to fully transition out of LDC status after a five-year transition period.

In April a Japan-Laos Summit telephone call was held, followed by the announcement of the “Action Plan for Advancement of Strategic Partnership between the Lao PDR and Japan,” which will serve as a guideline for cooperation over the next five years. As part of the COVID-19-related cooperation under the plan, Japan has so far provided approximately 940,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines (as of February 2022). In addition, Japan has provided a variety of support in line with local needs, such as providing freezers for vaccine storage as part of its “Last One Mile Support” and providing oxygen concentrators and other medical equipment as emergency grant aid. In terms of cultural exchange, progress was made in the strategic partnership between both countries even during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the online Laos Festival that was held in September. In January 2022, Foreign Minister Hayashi held a telephone call with Foreign Minister Saluemxay, and the two foreign Ministers confirmed the expansion and deepening of the relationship between the countries through the implementation of the “Action Plan for Advancement of Strategic Partnership between the Lao PDR and Japan.”