Last week, a high-ranking Vietnamese delegation paid a visit to Cuba. The trip highlighted the ongoing activity within the military aspect of the relationship as both sides continue to prepare for the commemoration of an upcoming symbolic milestone in the establishment of their wider diplomatic ties.
As I have observed before in these pages, Vietnam and Cuba, two of the longest-surviving communist countries in the world, have long enjoyed a relationship that extends into the defense domain, with the official contemporary diplomatic relationship dating back in 1960. The development of defense ties has continued on over the past year or two as well within both countries’ broader alignments. 2018 saw some activity tied to commemorating the 45th anniversary of Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s visit to Vietnam in 1973, and 2019 has also seen both sides prepare for the commemoration of 60 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties coming up next year in 2020.
Over the past week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in in the headlines again with an official visit made by a high-ranking Vietnamese military delegation to Cuba. Vietnamese Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh led the military delegation for a range of scheduled defense interactions between the two sides which lasted between May 4 and May 8.
The visit of the Vietnamese military delegation included a series of interactions. In terms of meetings, this included meetings with top officials including Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel Castro and former president who now still serves as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba. And in terms of activities themselves, the trip was pegged to the latest iteration of the Vietnam-Cuba Defense Policy Dialogue (DPD).
The DPD was held between the Vietnamese side, led by Vinh, as well as a delegation of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba that featured Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba Leopoldo Cintra Frias and Chief of the General Staff and First Deputy Minister of the Cuban Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Álvaro López Miera.
At the meeting, both sides reviewed the existing state of their bilateral defense cooperation within their wider relationship, considered future opportunities to enhance it, and discussed regional and international issues of mutual interest. Per the official account by Vietnam’s defense ministry, some of the areas where further defense collaboration was discussed were defense industry, military medicine, and education and training.
In addition to specific issues, with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties coming up in 2020, both sides also deliberated on the ongoing issue of remembering and commemorating the history of defense interactions in part to educate younger generations on the legacy of ties. In that vein, both Vinh and López signed an agreement on the implementation of documents on Vietnam-Cuba defense cooperation commemoration, where the two countries will engage in efforts including compiling and making books on the history of the Vietnam-Cuba defense cooperation and also publishing a documentary on the relationship.
Unsurprisingly, as is typical of meetings of this kind between the two sides, few additional specifics were disclosed publicly about the private deliberations, which in and of themselves were just one of several interactions within the wider defense relationship. Nonetheless, the ongoing activity in the military aspect of ties will continue to be significant to watch for the rest of 2019 and into 2020 as both sides prepare for the commemoration of their broader relationship.