Last week, a high-ranking Vietnamese defense delegation paid a scheduled visit to Germany. While the trip was one among many interactions between the two countries, it highlighted some of the future opportunities for collaboration that both sides have been exploring in spite of the past challenges that their ties have encountered in recent years.
Germany and Vietnam began their diplomatic relations in 1975 and elevated their ties to the level of a strategic partnership in 2011, with the intent to make progress on a range of areas in the political, economic, and security domains. Though there have been challenges – including the souring of ties in 2017 following a Vietnam government-linked high-profile kidnapping of a Vietnamese businessmen from Berlin back to Vietnam – both sides have since attempted to reset their ties and make further progress in their relations.
For instance, both sides have been working out the finalization of Germany’s first-ever permanent resident defense attaché to Hanoi, which would be a boost for the military aspect of relations. Both sides have also been looking forward to 2020 as well, which will see a series of notable developments, including the 45th founding anniversary of the Vietnam-Germany diplomatic ties, Vietnam’s chairmanship of ASEAN, and the European Union (EU) presidency by Germany.
Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with a Vietnamese delegation’s visit to Germany. Nguyen Chi Vinh, Vietnam’s deputy defense minister, led a high-ranking military delegation to Germany from June 11 to June 15.
The visit included a series of interactions. In terms of meetings, Vinh and the delegation met with German officials including Peter Tauber, the state secretary in the German defense ministry. During that meeting, which occurred on June 13, both sides discussed the state of their defense relationship, the security situations in Europe and Asia, and other regional and global issues of interest.
Both sides also discussed next steps in their defense cooperation. Per the official account of the meeting by Vietnam’s defense ministry, this included the possibility of signing a memorandum of understanding on bilateral defense cooperation, accelerating the establishment of a deputy ministerial-level defense policy dialogue mechanism, and further deepening ongoing collaboration in areas such as in military medicine, personnel training, UN peacekeeping operations, defense industry, and war legacy issues. There was also a reference to Vietnam’s ongoing efforts to become a defense partner of the European Union, which has been under consideration, as I observed a few weeks ago.
Apart from these meetings, there were other aspects of the trip as well. Per Vietnam’s defense ministry, this included meetings with the foreign ministry and a field trip to military facilities, including the Combat Training Center of the German Army (GÜZ) and the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF) Germany.
The visit of the Vietnamese delegation to Germany was just one of several exchanges between the two sides. But as both sides look ahead to what is set to be an active 2020 for them individually as well for bilateral ties, such interactions will be important to watch to get a sense for how the rhetoric between the two sides is translating into reality.