The interview has been translated into English below:

Reporter: Mister Defense Minister General Ngo Xuan Lich, defense cooperation serves a pillar in Vietnam-Cuba diplomatic ties. Could you please give a brief review of the Vietnam-Cuba cooperation and evaluate outcomes of bilateral defense cooperation over the past time?

Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich: Although Vietnam and Cuba are on the different sides of the earth, the two countries have been always united and helped each other in their struggles for national liberation and reunification, protection of their revolutionary achievements, and the national construction and defense cause. Although the world, the region, and the two countries have experienced numerous big changes, the relationship between Vietnam-Cuba, which had been established by Presidents Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro and nurtured by generations of leaders and people of the two countries, has been constant. Since the two countries established diplomatic ties, Vietnam and Cuba have regularly exchanged delegations at all levels, contributing to consolidating and developing the traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation in different fields with defense cooperation as an important pillar in Vietnam-Cuba relations.

Defense Minister General Ngo Xuan Lich (right) welcomes Minister of Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces Senior Lieutenant General Leopoldo Cintra Frias to Vietnam in 2017.

The history of Vietnam-Cuba defense cooperation has proved the remarks. Right in 1964, Vietnam opened its Defense Attaché Office in Cuba. Two years later, Cuba launched hers in Vietnam. Since then, the two countries focused on exchanging experts and sharing scientific studies on combat equipment and tactics.

Cuba sent its military delegations to learn Vietnam’s combat experiences and backed the Vietnam People’s Army in the struggle for national independence. After Vietnam’s unification in 1975, the two sides enhanced sharing valuable experience in conducting people's warfare. From 1985 to 1992, Vietnam dispatched hundreds of local-level military experts, experienced commandos, engineers, and air defense officers to help Cuba build its defensive system and train its local troops and militiamen.

In 2011, the two sides signed an agreement on developing defense cooperation to meet the demand for strengthening bilateral defense relations. The signing of the agreement was seen as an important milestone and a crucial legal basis for the two militaries to promote their comprehensive cooperation in defense.

In a bid to strengthen bilateral defense relations in an intensive, effective, and practical manner, the two countries inked a cooperation plan for the 2014-2016 period in 2014 and a cooperation plan for the 2017-2019 period in 2017, expanding the bilateral cooperation to various fields, including defense industry, air defense-air force, military medicine, training, and delegation exchange, among others.

Especially, in 2017, the Chief of the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army and Defense Minister and I had an official visit to Cuba while Minister of Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces Senior Lieutenant General Leopoldo Cintra Frias paid an official visit to Vietnam in 2017 and had a working visit to Vietnam in 2018. In addition, the two sides signed different cooperation agreements, including a cooperation deal on health improvement for officers of the two militaries in 2004, an agreement on information security (2017), and cooperation agreement in military medicine (2018). At present, the two countries are discussing to accelerate the signing of a cooperation plan for the 2020-2022 period.

Over the past time, the bilateral defense cooperation has contributed positively to strengthening the special friendship and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries. The regular exchange of military delegations at all levels and close coordination to implement cooperation deals affirmed that the bilateral defense cooperation is one of the pillars in the Vietnam-Cuba relationship, contributing to strengthening the special solidarity between the two Parties, States, and peoples.

Reporter: Mister Defense Minister, over the past time, the COVID-19 pandemic has been developing complicatedly and spreading around the world, posing a serious challenge to humankind and affecting all aspects of socio-economic life in almost all countries around the world. In this context, how did Vietnam and Cuba work together to prevent and control the disease?

Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich: Since the COVID-19 broke out, Vietnam and Cuba have actively and pro-actively promoted cooperation and supported each other in disease prevention and control in accordance with bilateral defense cooperation. The two sides shared experience in preventing the pandemic, sterilizing COVID-19 affected areas, conducting tests for the virus and treating COVID-19 patients, and agreed to cooperate in studying and manufacturing a quick test kit, a vaccine against COVID-19, and therapy.

The two countries held three online meetings to exchange experience in COVID-19 prevention and control, and discuss orientations for further cooperation in COVID-19 pandemic prevention and control. Vietnam presented three tones of medical supplies, including test kits, medical facemasks, protective clothing, and medicines to Cuba while Cuba gave thousands of doses of Cuba-manufactured Interferon Alfa 2B medicine to Vietnam and sent top medical experts to support Vietnam’s efforts in treating COVID-19 patients in July.

I am very touched when Cuban medical experts said that they were willing to work on the frontline with Vietnamese medical workers to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The mutual support in the fight against COVID-19 over the past time is clear evidence of the faithful comradeship, brotherhood, affection, empathy and solidarity between the two countries and two militaries in the most difficult period of time. This has also created new opportunities for the two sides to boost military medicine cooperation in the time to come.

Reporter: How will the Vietnam-Cuba relationship in general and bilateral defense cooperation develop in the coming time, Mr. Defense Minister?

Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich: We are very proud of the faithful friendship abd solidarity between the two countries as the two countries are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic ties. The Vietnam-Cuba relationship is an invaluable asset that the two Parties, States, and peoples should preserve and protect. Vietnam always bears in mind and treasures the great support and effective assistance given by the Cuban Party, State, and people to the Vietnam in the Vietnamese national war for national liberation in the past and the current national construction and defense cause.

The Vietnamese Party, State, and Defense Ministry always put much importance to educating the traditional friendship between the two countries to young Vietnamese generations and encouraging them to treasure and uphold the long-lasting “comradeship and brotherhood.” We have a strong reason to believe that the Vietnam-Cuba relationship will be consolidated and developed intensively in the coming time, contributing to bringing benefits to each country and maintaining peace and stability in the region and the world.

Regarding the bilateral defense cooperation, I believed that Vietnam and Cuba will further develop their defense cooperation in an intensive, effective, and sustainable manner on the basis of the strong political trust and mutual understanding between the two countries in general and two militaries in particular.

The Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense and the Cuban Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces strongly believe that the bilateral defense cooperation will not be affected in any circumstances, even in the COVID-19 pandemic.

To consolidate and lift the bilateral defense cooperation to a new height, the two sides will actively carry out the reached cooperation agreements, soon ink the cooperation plan for the 2020-2022 period, maintain available cooperation and dialogue mechanisms, promote delegation exchanges at all levels, and complete a book on the history of Vietnam-Cuba defense cooperation.

Furthermore, the two defense ministries will discuss and agree on new cooperation contents in line with the reality and capabilities of the two sides. The Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense is willing to cooperate with Cuba in the fields of Vietnam’s strength, including defense industry, telecommunications, and military medicine. Vietnam hopes Cuba will create favorable conditions for Vietnamese military businesses, especially the Military Industry-Telecoms Group (Viettel), to develop telecommunicationa infrastructure and invest in potential fields in Cuba in the coming time.

Reporter: Thank you very much!

Translated by Tran Hoai