This week, a British warship paid a visit to Vietnam. Though the interaction was merely one of several within the broader relationship, it nonetheless highlighted the ongoing activity on the defense aspect of ties between the two countries amid wider domestic and regional developments underway.
Vietnam and the United Kingdom have long had a bilateral relationship, which was upgraded to a strategic partnership back in 2010. But the two sides have sought to further strengthen their ties over the past few years, with the U.K. looking to boost ties with Southeast Asian states such as Vietnam post-Brexit, and Hanoi seeing Britain as among a range of powers to engage across the board as it seeks to deal with a series of challenges including disputes with China in the South China Sea. A series of developments were expected for ties this year in particular, since this marks the 45th founding anniversary of the Vietnam-U.K. diplomatic relationship and the 25th anniversary of the British Council operating in Vietnam.
The defense aspect of the bilateral relationship has not been immune from these general trends. Both sides had already been cooperating in several areas, including the U.K.’s sharing of its expertise to help Vietnam’s first UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan this year, and U.K. defense companies gradually increasing their visibility in Vietnam as well. But the two countries have also been looking to boost this aspect of ties still further despite the challenges that remain. Earlier this year, for example, officials disclosed that they planned to hold the first iteration of a defense policy dialogue at the deputy ministerial level later this year.
This week, in yet another step forward for the security side of the relationship, a British ship paid a visit to Vietnam. According to Vietnamese official accounts, on the morning of September 3, the U.K. Royal Navy’s amphibious assault ship HMS Albion docked at Ho Chi Minh City port to kick off a four-day visit to the city that will last until September 6.
The visit itself includes a series of interactions between the two sides. According to Vietnam’s defense ministry, these include courtesy calls paid to Vietnamese officials in Ho Chi Minh City as well as sports exchanges with personnel from Military Region 7 and Naval Region 2. Beyond the bilateral aspect of the visit’s significance, British officials, including Britain’s Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific Mark Fieldm who embarked on a six-country trip to Southeast Asia in August, have highlighted the HMS Albion’s deployments to the region as part of the U.K.’s commitment to regional security.
Unsurprisingly, few additional specifics were provided regarding the visit, including the issues that were discussed at the meetings as well as future steps that might be expected for the relationship. Nonetheless, as the year goes by, the defense aspect of ties between the two sides will continue to be interesting to watch amid wider domestic and regional trends as well as continued attempts by both countries to advance ties alongside the anniversaries in 2018.