The head of the U.S. Coast Guard has expressed interest in deepening cooperation with Vietnam, local media outlets reported last week.
According to the People’s Army Newspaper, Admiral Paul Zukunft, the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, made the comment during a September 21 meeting with Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan, the deputy chief of the general staff of the Vietnam People’s Army.
The areas reportedly being considered include information sharing, delegation exchanges, and training.
As I have noted before, the United States and Vietnam have been looking to strengthen their security relationship as the two sides commemorate the 20th anniversary of the normalization of their ties this year (See: “What’s Next for US-Vietnam Relations?”). In line with a 2011 memorandum of understanding, U.S.-Vietnam defense cooperation has been proceeding in five areas: high-level dialogues; maritime security; search and rescue; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; and peacekeeping.
As part of this, the United States has been strengthening Vietnam’s coast guard, which has had to contend with several challenges, including Chinese vessels encroaching into the country’s waters. This has included not only training and curriculum development, but the provision of actual equipment. Most recently, as I pointed out in a previous piece, when U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his counterpart Phung Quang Thanh inked a Joint Vision Statement on Defense Relations in June, it was announced that Washington would provide $18 million to the Vietnamese Coast Guard to purchase American Metal Shark patrol vessels (See: “US, Vietnam Deepen Defense Ties”).
The news about U.S.-Vietnam coast guard cooperation also comes as Vietnam undertakes several domestic measures designed to boost its coast guard. Earlier this month, Hanoi introduced a new rule allowing coast guard forces to use weapons to chase away foreign vessels illegally entering the country’s waters. The rule, which will take effect on October 20, will allow coast guard vessels to pursue intruding boats until they are completely out of Vietnamese waters.
In late August, the Vietnamese and Indian coast guards jointly conducted a search and rescue drill in southern Vietnam in what defense officials said was a boost for the country’s capabilities. Hanoi has carried out similar exercises with other Asian partners as well, including Japan and South Korea.