Last week, a high-ranking defense delegation from Vietnam paid a visit to Cambodia. The scheduled interaction between the two countries highlighted the ongoing efforts to manage the security side of their relationship despite the challenges they continue to face in doing so.
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.
The development of defense ties has continued on into 2019 as well amid wider developments. As official meetings and visits have gone on at various levels, both sides have been working to manage issues between them, be it border demarcations or uncertainties about certain developments, with a case in point being Cambodia’s closer alignment with China, which affects the broader regional balance of power.
Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines with the visit of a high-ranking Vietnamese defense delegation to Cambodia. The delegation, led by Phan Van Giang, the deputy defense minister and chief of the general staff of the Vietnam People’s Army, made a four-day official trip to Cambodia that lasted from October 30 to November 2.
The trip consisted of several interactions. In terms of meetings, the delegation met with top Cambodian officials including Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Tea Banh, and Vong Pisen, the commander in chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF).
The meetings cumulatively covered a series of issues, including the state of bilateral cooperation and regional and global issues of mutual interest. According to the official account of the meetings by Vietnam’s defense ministry, topics of discussion included the status of implementation of existing agreements, work on border demarcation, and the role of ASEAN in the regional architecture, with Vietnam set to assume the annually rotating chairmanship of the regional grouping in 2020.
Beyond those meetings, the trip consisted of other interactions as well. For example, both the Vietnamese and Cambodian defense ministries organized a ceremony to present Vietnam’s Friendship Order to units and individuals of the RCAF. In addition, there were several other ceremonial aspects to the visit as well, including Giang laying wreaths at the Vietnam-Cambodia Friendship Monument and visiting Brigade 70, which tend to be customary during such trips by both sides.