Last week, Vietnam and Laos held what was officially characterized as a new defense policy exchange between the two countries. The interaction spotlighted some of the ongoing efforts by the two sides to continue to make inroads in their security ties in spite of the challenges that remain and amid other domestic and foreign policy developments.
As I have noted before in these pages, Vietnam and Laos, both one-party, communist states in Southeast Asia, share an important defense relationship as part of their broader diplomatic ties, with various areas of focus ranging from Hanoi’s ongoing support of Laos’ military to the management of their joint border amid common challenges as well as ongoing differences.
Last week, the defense aspect of relations between the two sides was in the headlines again with what was officially termed as the first-ever Vietnam-Laos defense policy exchange. The exchange was held in Vientiane, Laos, on July 25 and was co-chaired between Lao Deputy Defense Minister Onsi Sensuk and his visiting Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Chi Vinh.
As is often the case with such defense-related interactions, during the exchange, which was held at the headquarters of the Lao defense ministry this time around, the two sides reviewed bilateral defense cooperation, discussed a range of regional and global political and security issues of interest, and talked about ways to boost future collaboration.
Per an official statement on the interaction released by Vietnam’s defense ministry, the two sides talked about the status of their defense collaboration in terms of priorities between their countries, parties, and peoples, including in general terms as well as more specific ones set out in cooperation documents. The statement also noted that both sides saw the holding of the first Vietnam-Laos defense policy exchange as being an important channel to exchange information and align perceptions on issues of common concern in bilateral defense collaboration and regional security.
Apart from the defense policy exchange itself, the visiting Vietnamese military delegation led by Vinh also met with a series of other Lao officials, including Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and Defense Minister Chansamone Chanyalath. Those interactions provided opportunities for the two sides to discuss strategic aspects of collaboration on the defense side and in their bilateral relationship more generally, as well as unspecified new areas of cooperation.
Unsurprisingly, not much in the way of specifics was publicly unveiled about the private deliberations between the two sides. Nonetheless, such interactions will continue to be important to monitor to assess the extent to which both countries are moving forward in their defense collaboration in the coming months and years.