On February 19, a British ship kicked off a courtesy visit to Hai Phong. The engagement highlighted one aspect of the defense relationship between the U.K. and Vietnam, which both sides have been looking to develop over the past few years.
The United Kingdom and Vietnam have a bilateral relationship that also includes a defense aspect as well, with manifestations including the U.K.’s sharing of its expertise to help Vietnam in its first UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, functional areas such as military medicine and hydrography, and the setting up of a new defense policy dialogue.
Defense ties have extended into 2020 as well amid wider trends and developments. Vietnam is continuing to advance ties with various major powers as it holds the annually rotating chairmanship of ASEAN and the U.K. is looking to strengthen its presence in Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific region despite concerns at home, including Brexit.
This week, the defense aspect of ties was in the spotlight again with the visit of a British vessel to Vietnam. The U.K. Royal Navy’s ship HMS Enterprise docked at Tan Vu port on February 19, officially kicking off a courtesy visit to Hai Phong that came as part of a series of commemorative activities for the 10th anniversary of the U.K.-Vietnam strategic partnership.
The weeklong courtesy visit by the HMS Enterprise, an Echo-class survey vessel with a crew of 72, included a series of interactions. Per Vietnam’s defense ministry, during the vessel’s stay in Hai Phong, both sides would be involved in a series of engagements, including courtesy calls to the leaders of Hai Phong city People’s Committee and the commanders of the Naval Command, as well as other Vietnamese military units.
British Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward framed the visit as being a demonstration of the U.K.’s commitment to security in the Asia-Pacific and an opportunity to further make ground on aspects of cooperation including the memorandum of understanding on hydrographic cooperation. Vietnam’s defense ministry noted that the visit represented “one of the specific activities to carry out the contents of the cooperation deal” agreed by the two defense ministries and contributed to promoting bilateral defense relations in general and naval cooperation in particular.
The courtesy visit by the HMS Enterprise is set to last until February 25, when it will leave the city of Hai Phong. As the rest of the engagement plays out, it will be closely watched for a sense of how it factors into the broader question of how both sides build out, implement, and manage the defense aspect of their relationship amid wider trends and developments.