Putin Visits Vietnam Looking to Strengthen Ties in S.E. Asia

In the midst of increasing global isolation as a result of Russia’s military activities in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin traveled to Vietnam to strengthen relations with the long-standing friendly country.

Upon arrival, Putin was greeted by dignitaries and soldiers. He arrived from North Korea, where he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement for mutual aid in case of war. This pact could mark the strongest connection between the two since the Cold War.

According to North Korean official media, the two nations have agreed to immediately give military support to each other in the case of a conflict, as stated in a new agreement that was made during a meeting.

Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Vladimir Putin of Russia both hailed the agreement as an improvement to bilateral relations spanning security, commerce, investment, cultural, and humanitarian exchanges.

Among the officials that the Russian leader met in Hanoi were Nguyen Phu Trong, the new president of Vietnam, the Communist Party general secretary, and other senior Vietnamese politicians. An admonition from the United States Embassy in Vietnam followed the visit.

Nguyen Khac Giang, an expert at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, says Putin’s recent trips to China, North Korea, and Vietnam are an effort to end international isolation.

A potential arms deal between Pyongyang and Moscow, in which the former supplies the latter with much-needed munitions for use in Ukraine and the latter receives economic aid and technology transfers, could make Kim’s nuclear arsenal and missile program even more dangerous.  Both nations deny any involvement in alleged weapon deliveries.

According to Giang, Vietnam views Russia as a vital partner for two reasons. First, Russia is Vietnam’s largest supplier of military hardware, and second, Russia’s oil exploration technology assists Vietnam in preserving its claims to sovereignty in the contentious South China Sea.

Roughly 80% of Vietnam’s weapon shipments have come from Russia since the early 2000s. Because Vietnam has been trying to diversify its supply, this has been going down over time. Giang said it would take time, however, to cut ties with Russia completely.