Last week, Vietnam and Israel held their first-ever formal defense policy dialogue. The event spotlighted the growing defense relationship between the two sides that often remains under the radar relative to some of Hanoi’s other defense partnerships.
While Vietnam-Israel bilateral ties were established back in 1993, notable developments in the defense realm have only really begun to take off in the past few years. Both sides inked a memorandum of understanding for defense cooperation in 2015, and several inroads have been made since then in various areas including Vietnamese purchases of weapons systems and explorations in realms such as technology transfer and defense industry.
2018 was expected to be an active year for bilateral ties, including the defense realm, with both sides commemorating the 25th anniversary of their establishment of diplomatic ties and Israel was commemorating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel. We had seen some of the developments leading up to this last year, including the visit of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, just the second such trip ever made at such a high level to Vietnam.
Last week, we saw another key first in ties with the holding of the first ever defense policy dialogue. The dialogue was held on October 8 at the headquarters of the Vietnamese defense ministry and was co-chaired by Nguyen Chi Vinh, Vietnam’s deputy defense minister, and Udi Adam, the director-general of the Israeli defense ministry.
During the meeting, both sides took stock of where defense ties were and also considered areas for further development, while also discussing a range of regional and international issues of interest. The range of topics covered during the dialogue included cybersecurity, defense industry, and personnel training and education, according to official Vietnamese accounts.
Commenting on the significance of the dialogue following his separate meeting with Adam, Vietnam’s Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich said the results of the meeting would help both strengthen trust and understanding between the two sides and also open up more opportunities for defense collaboration in new fields. He also underscored that Vietnam’s defense ministry would help facilitate the implementation of agreements already signed as well as propose initiatives and new aspects of cooperation as well.
To be sure, it is still early days in this defense relationship, and how exactly the two sides translate this into reality will become clearer in the months that follow. Nonetheless, given the significant developments that have occurred in just the past few years in the defense realm of ties, this will continue to be an important space to watch.