I visited Vietnam this week for bilateral discussions with my counterpart, Minister of National Defense General Phung Quang Thanh.
This was my third visit to Vietnam and my second visit as Minister for Defence. I last visited Vietnam in October 2010 to attend the inaugural ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus. During that visit Minister Thanh and I signed the Australia-Vietnam Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation.
In Hanoi I also met with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem.
We discussed the growing momentum in our strategic cooperation and our defence-to-defence and military-to-military relationship.
Minister Thanh and I agreed Vietnam and Australia should take further practical steps to enhance our Defence relationship and to progress a range of bilateral defence initiatives.
We agreed to upgrade our bilateral strategic dialogue with an Annual Defence Ministers’ Dialogue. This builds on existing annual Australia-Vietnam Strategic Dialogue with Foreign Affairs and Defence officials at the Vice Ministerial (Deputy Secretary) level and annual Australia-Vietnam Defence Cooperation Senior Officials talks.
We agreed to boost our maritime security cooperation by building on established Navy ship visits to include exercises in fields such as search and rescue. We will also explore possible Australian support for Vietnam’s efforts to locate and render safe unexploded ordnance.
Australia will continue to support Vietnam’s preparations for a future contribution to United Nations peacekeeping missions and build on cooperation in Officer and English language training.
Australia offers nearly 100 places to Vietnam People’s Army personnel to take part in English language training in Australia each year.
Australia also trains over 100 personnel in English each year at the Vietnam People’s Army Commissioning School.
During my visit I opened a new Australian-sponsored English language laboratory at the Military Technical Academy, which will train over 700 Vietnamese students annually.
While in Hanoi, I met with senior Officers at the National Defence College to discuss regional strategic developments and the positive momentum in Australia-Vietnam relations.
I also visited the Special Forces Officer School and the Vietnam People’s Army Commissioning School to observe the benefits of our practical bilateral cooperation.
Mr Smith’s Office: Ellen Shields (02) 6277 7800 or 0400 347 473