Last week, a French destroyer paid a visit to Vietnam in what constituted the first interaction of this kind. The development spotlighted ongoing efforts by France and Vietnam to advance the defense aspect of their collaboration as part of their wider relationship.

As I have observed previously in these pages, while Vietnam and France have a long historical relationship – dating back to France’s colonization of Vietnam as part of French Indochina to the formalization of contemporary ties in 1973 – it is only recently that defense ties between the two sides have been developing. The two countries inked a defense cooperation agreement back in 2009, and some steps have been taken since then as well to develop security ties further including the convening of a new Defense Policy Dialogue starting in November 2016.

That has continued on over the past year or so as well. To take just one example, last September, the two countries held the first Vietnam-France deputy ministerial dialogue on security and defense strategy and the signing of a new joint vision statement on defense cooperation that sets out areas of collaboration for the two countries out to 2028, covering items previously discussed including in aspects of ties such as exchanges, training, and exercises as well as issue areas like military medicine, peacekeeping operations, and maritime security.

Last week, the defense aspect of the France-Vietnam relationship was in the headlines again with the visit of a French destroyer to Vietnam. The French Navy destroyer FS Forbin (D620), officially designated as a frigate, paid a visit to Vietnam that kicked off with its anchoring at Hiep Phuoc Port in Nha Be district in Ho Chi Minh City on May 28. The visit, which Vietnam’s defense ministry said constituted the first of its kind, was highlighted as part of ongoing bilateral defense ties between the two sides and efforts to expand their wider strategic partnership.

The weeklong visit to Vietnam consisted of several components. In terms of interactions between personnel on both sides, these included pre-arranged courtesy calls on leaders of Ho Chi Minh City, Military Region 7 Command, and Naval Region 2 Command. Per the official account of the visit by Vietnam’s defense ministry, these courtesy calls provided an opportunity for both sides to exchange experiences in fields of mutual concern, which remained unspecified

Beyond those interactions, there were also several other activities as well between the two sides. Per the official account by Vietnam, this included cultural and people-to-people interactions, such as the visit by sailors of the destroyer to historical and scenic sites in the city.

By Prashanth Parameswaran - The Diplomat - June 5, 2019