31st Sea Games - Vietnam 2021 Covid-19 Pandemic
Sep 24, 2021 / 17:49

Australia's navy visits to Vietnam indicate larger defense ties: Carl Thayer

Australia and Vietnam have a defense relationship that extends back to 1999.

Regular goodwill visits to Vietnamese ports by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) have contributed to building up the defense cooperation relationship, according to Carl Thayer, emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Canberra.

 The Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021 task Group is formally welcomed by Senior Captain Nguyen Thai Hoc, Deputy Chief of Staff of Naval Region 4, and other officers from the Vietnam People’s Navy, Vietnam People’s Army-Military Region 5, Border Guards, and the Australian Embassy Vietnam. Photos: Embassy of Australia in Hanoi

The current visit by three RAN naval ships (HMAS* Canberra, HMAS Anzac, and HMAS Sirius) is part of a larger Indo-Pacific Endeavour program inaugurated by Australia in 2017. Australian naval ships are deployed to the region to train and exercise with the navies of multiple countries. In this case, RAN ships visited Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand before docking at the Cam Ranh International Port. They also exercise with the US Coast Guard Cutter Munro, Prof. Thayer told The Hanoi Times.

Australia did not make a port call in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The fact that Vietnam received a RAN visit this year despite the Covid pandemic is a sign of the importance both sides place on bilateral defense cooperation, Prof. Thayer added.

During the four-day visit starting Sept. 20, a number of activities took place, including virtual exchanges on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, gender, peace and security, maritime security cooperation, and young officers and cadet exchanges. It also included a maritime training activity at sea focused on the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), he added.

 Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Robyn Mudie at the in-person meeting in Hanoi on Sept. 22. 

On the occasion of the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021 (IPE21) Task Group’s visit to Cam Ranh, the two countries’ defense ministries on Sept. 22 held a virtual and in-person exchange on gender, peace, and security with the participation of Major General Vu Cuong Quyet, director of the Institute for Defense Strategy and Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Robyn Mudie.

Australian senior officials and experts have exchanged views on the role of female peacekeepers in the United Nations peacekeeping mission and roadmap for the greater engagement of Vietnamese women in global peace and security.

Australia has supported Vietnam’s peacekeeping by training English and airlifting Vietnamese military personnel and equipment, especially assisted Vietnam’s deployment in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Chief of Joint Operations Command, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton said the peacekeeping partnership between the two countries is a key element of the bilateral defense relationship. It highlights Vietnam and Australia’s shared vision of a peaceful, inclusive, and resilient region actively supporting global security.

“Vietnam and Australia maritime security experts have come together as part of the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021 to exchange ideas and increase our combined understanding of contemporary maritime security issues. Vietnam and Australian Defence Force (ADF) naval vessels will put this into practice today off Cam Ranh Bay,” Mudie tweeted.

 HMAS Anzac.

According to Prof. Thayer, Australia and Vietnam have a defense relationship that extends back to 1999. It has been strengthened by successive partnership agreements that have seen bilateral relations rise from a comprehensive partnership to a strategic partnership in 2018.

The joint statement on the establishment of their strategic partnership states: "We confirm our increasing strategic relations and shared regional interests and reaffirm our commitment to closer defense, law and justice, intelligence and security cooperation, contributing to the peace, stability, and development of the region."

We reaffirm our commitment to an annual Defense Ministers’ Meeting to facilitate high-level dialogue on defense matters underpinned by the Memorandum of Understanding for Defense Cooperation signed in 2010. These exchanges will be an opportunity to explore further defense cooperation, including in education and training, maritime and aviation security, peacekeeping training and support, counter-terrorism, war legacy issues, and other areas.

*HMAS stands for Her Majesty’s Australian Ship

 HMAS Canberra.