Last week, South Africa’s defense minister embarked on a scheduled trip to Vietnam. The visit spotlighted the ongoing efforts by both sides to continue to develop the security aspect of their relationship amid ongoing changes at home and abroad.
As part of their wider bilateral ties, Vietnam and South Africa share a defense relationship that was institutionalized during the inking of a memorandum of understanding back in 2006. The two sides have continued to work to develop this aspect of their relationship in various areas, including visits, exchanges, and dialogue mechanisms like the Vietnam-South Africa Defense Dialogue.
Last week, their defense ties were in the spotlight again with the visit of South Africa’s defense minister to Vietnam. Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula led a high-ranking defense delegation for an official visit to Vietnam that lasted from August 22 to August 26, which was billed by both sides as a way to boost momentum for the development of their defense relationship.
Mapisa-Nqakula and her delegation met with a range of officials, including Vietnam’s Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich. As is often the case, the meeting between the two defense ministers took stock of the state of defense collaboration as well as issues of regional and international interest, including the South China Sea and political and security issues more generally.
During the meeting, the two sides also discussed ways to boost defense collaboration more specifically. Per a statement released by Vietnam’s defense ministry on the visit, both sides agreed to further current areas of collaboration, including personnel training and exchanges in aspects such as English, science and technology, and computer science. They also discussed ways to advance cooperation in specific areas, which included military medicine, counterterrorism, peacekeeping, and telecommunications research, with the possibility of Vietnam’s military-run telecom group Viettel investing in South Africa.
The visit consisted of other interactions as well. Per the statement, Mapisa-Nqakula and her delegation attended an official reception at the headquarters of the Vietnamese defense ministry and visited defense facilities including the General Department of Defense Industry and Viettel. In addition, there were also more symbolic and ceremonial aspects of the visit as well, as evidenced by the fact that they also offered incense and laid a wreath at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and visited some historical and cultural relics in Hanoi and Ha Long.