This week, Vietnam and the UK finally held their first-ever defense policy dialogue. While 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.
As I have noted in these pages, Vietnam and the United Kingdom have long had a bilateral relationship, which was upgraded to a strategic partnership back in 2010, and that includes a defense aspect of ties as well. 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 had been working to strengthen this aspect of relations as well still further.
2018 was recognized as a key year for the development of ties. This was not just due to the continued nature of the strategic rationale for collaboration for both sides – including Britain’s efforts to boost ties with Southeast Asian states post-Brexit, and Hanoi’s efforts to engage a range of powers as it deals with a series of challenges such as the South China Sea – but also because it marks the 45th founding anniversary of Vietnam-UK ties.
One of the key developments that was being watched within the context of the bilateral defense relationship was the holding of a new defense policy dialogue. Earlier this year, officials disclosed that they planned to hold the first iteration of a defense policy dialogue at the deputy ministerial level later this year.
Last week, in an notable development in the defense aspect of the bilateral relationship, we finally witnessed the holding of the first-ever UK-Vietnam defense policy dialogue. The dialogue occurred between the two sides on November 28 as planned at the UK ministry of defense, and it was co-chaired between Vietnam Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh and Minister of State for Defense Earl Howe.
According to Vietnam’s defense ministry, both sides discussed various aspects of defense ties where collaboration was ongoing, such as in peacekeeping, and where cooperation could be furthered, including exchanges, training, and the defense industry, as well as wider regional and international issues. There was also a signing of a document on cooperation in geospace between the two countries.
Apart from the dialogue, Vinh, who was also on a broader visit to Britain from November 27 to December 1, also held a series of other interactions as well. This included meetings with the Chief of the General Staff of the UK Army as well as the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and interactions with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Royal United Services Institute, and other local defense businesses.