Last week, Vietnam and Australia held this year’s iteration of their defense policy dialogue. While the move is just one part of their overall bilateral defense relationship, it highlighted the ongoing collaboration between them in the security realm.
As I have noted before in these pages, Vietnam and Australia have defense ties that are part of their wider bilateral relationship, which was elevated to a strategic partnership in 2018. Defense ties begun building out following their formalization in 1999 and more so after the inking of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for defense cooperation concluded in November 2010. The relationship has grown to include a range of components, including education and training, personnel exchanges, and naval ship visits.
Among the components within the defense relationship is the bilateral defense policy dialogue. The first iteration of the dialogue between the two countries was held back in November 2017, and the second one followed in October 2018 during a significant year, as ties were elevated to a strategic partnership and the two sides commemorated the 45th founding anniversary of diplomatic ties and 20 years of bilateral defense relations.
Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the spotlight again with the holding of this year’s iteration of the Vietnam-Australia Defense Policy Dialogue. The dialogue took place on October 29 in Canberra and it was chaired by Peter Tesch, Australia’s deputy secretary for strategic policy and intelligence, and Vietnam’s deputy defense minister Nguyen Chi Vinh.
As with previous iterations, the dialogue saw both sides exchange views on both the state of the bilateral relationship as well as other regional and global issues of mutual interest to them. Per the official account of the interaction by Vietnam’s defense ministry, the issues discussed included the South China Sea and the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the regional security architecture, with Vietnam assuming the annually rotating ASEAN chair in 2020.
Both sides also discussed areas of focus for the further development of their bilateral defense relationship. Avenues for expanding cooperation that were discussed included education and training, participation in UN peacekeeping operations, maritime security, and advancing the role of servicewomen and gender equality across the military. They also discussed potential future interactions in 2020, including Australia’s idea to host an informal ASEAN-Australia defense ministers’ meeting and the expected visit of Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds to Vietnam next year.
Of course, the dialogue was just one among a series of ongoing interactions between the two countries on the defense side of their strategic partnership, and there remain various limitations and challenges to advancing some aspects of cooperation as well tied to broader domestic, bilateral, and regional factors. Nonetheless, the dialogue offered some insights into the existing state of security collaboration between Vietnam and Australia, and how both sides will look to advance that further in the months and years to come.