Earlier this week, Vietnam and Cambodia both held the latest iteration of their defense policy dialogue. The mechanism, which came amid several developments, including new reports of a Chinese outpost in Cambodia and China-Vietnam tensions in the South China Sea, spotlighted how both sides are continuing to manage their defense ties amid these wider domestic and foreign policy developments that have tested relations.
As I have noted before in these pages, Vietnam and Cambodia, two neighboring Southeast Asian states, share a broad defense relationship as part of their wider diplomatic ties. Vietnam provides the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) with military equipment, infrastructure, and training, while both countries have also looked to manage more sensitive areas of the relationship such as outstanding issues over their shared 700-mile long border and illegal fishing.
One of the mechanisms through which defense ties are managed is the Vietnam-Cambodia defense policy dialogue, which saw its fourth iteration held on July 23 at the headquarters of Cambodia’s defense ministry. The dialogue was led by the Vietnamese visiting deputy defense minister, Nguyen Chi Vinh, and the minister of state of the Cambodian defense ministry, Neang Phat.
As is the case with these dialogues, both sides reviewed existing cooperation under frameworks such as the protocol of defense cooperation for 2015-2019 and the annual 2019 cooperation plan between the defense ministries, discussed measures to advance ties in the future, and also addressed broader regional and global issues that were of interest.
Per the official account provided by Vietnam’s defense ministry, both sides agreed to strengthen their defense ties in various areas, including through upgrading the border defense exchange mechanism to the defense ministry level, continuing the preservation of friendship projects, and cooperating in organizing border rescue exercises and border friendship exchanges between their border guard forces. There was also reference made to strengthening coordination in areas such as promoting political cooperation in the military, countering “hostile forces” on social media, and fostering education including between young generations.
Apart from the defense dialogue itself, the two sides also had other interactions tied to it as well. This included a reception hosted for the Vietnamese delegation in Cambodia hosted by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister General Tea Banh, as well as a wreath-laying and the lighting of incense at the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Monument in Phnom Penh.