This week, a high-ranking Cuban delegation paid a visit to Vietnam. The trip spotlighted the ongoing activity within the security aspect of ties as both sides prepare for the commemoration of an upcoming symbolic milestone in the establishment of their wider diplomatic ties next year.

As I have noted previously in these pages, Vietnam and Cuba, two of the few remaining communist countries in the world, have long had a diplomatic relationship, which has extended into the defense domain dating back to 1960. Ties have continued to develop over the past few years even amid other changes in both countries’ broader alignments.

That general trajectory has continued on into 2019 as well, particularly as both sides prepare for the commemoration of 60 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties coming up next year in 2020 where plans have long been in the works. For instance, in May, Vietnamese Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh had led a high-ranking military delegation to Cuba for a defense policy dialogue between the two countries.

This week, the security aspect of ties was in the spotlight again with the holding of what was characterized third iteration of the Vietnam-Cuba defense dialogue. The dialogue was held in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi September 17, and it was co-chaired by Vietnam’s Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh and the Chief of the General Staff and First Deputy Minister of the Cuban Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Alvaro Lopez Miera, who led a high-level military delegation on a trip to the Southeast Asian country.

The dialogue saw both sides evaluate the state of their defense cooperation since the holding of the last iteration of the dialogue as well as broader domestic, regional, and international issues of mutual interest facing their two states, parties, and military establishments. The two countries also discussed ways to further promote relations as they transition towards a new defense cooperation plan for the 2020-2022 period following the previous one that had been crafted for 2017-2019. Per the official account of the meeting by Vietnam’s defense ministry, among the measures discussed were more exchanges as well as work on functional areas like cybersecurity, military medicine, defense industry, and telecommunications.

There was also a focus on ongoing work regarding commemorative activities between the two countries for 2020. Both sides discussed the implementation of certain measures, including the implementation of a dossier to commemorate ties. Reference was also made to future interactions in this respect, including the visit of the Minister of the Cuban Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, when both sides are expected sign the cooperation plan for the 2020-2022 period and also hold an exchange featuring historical figures contributing to the development of defense relations, and plans for Vietnamese defense officials to visit Cuba where they would announce a book and film to commemorate ties.

Beyond the dialogue itself, Miera’s visit also saw both sides hold several other interactions as well. In terms of visits, he and the Cuban delegation met with other officials, including Luong Cuong, the director of the General Department of Politics of the Vietnam People’s Army, and Phan Van Giang, who serves as deputy defense minister and chief of the Vietnam People’s Army. Beyond this, the delegation also visited defense facilities including the Naval Brigade 147 of Naval Region 1, where both sides had previously collaborated on weapons and equipment maintenance.

By Prashanth Parameswaran - The Diplomat - September 19, 2019