Since Vietnam and France set up their defense cooperation in 1991, the two countries have actively conducted delegation exchanges at all levels in a bid to promote mutual understanding and defense relations. Particularly, The French Defense Minister paid visits to Vietnam in 2010 and 2016, in which the visit in 2010 was the first trip by a French defense minister to Vietnam since 1954. The French Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces also visited Vietnam in 1997, 2002 and 2012.

At the second Vietnam-France Defense Policy Dialogue in Ho Chi Minh City

Meanwhile, the Vietnamese Defense Minister paid official visits to France in 1997, 2001, 2009 and 2018, and the Chief of the General Staff of the Vietnam People's Army visited the Western European country twice in 2000 and 2013. Senior leaders of the two countries also hosted various meetings on the sidelines of different multilateral forums.

These above-mentioned successful visits have contributed to strengthening mutual understanding and creating a firm foundation for the development of the bilateral defense cooperation. They also proved that leaders of the two defense ministries attach much importance to strengthening bilateral defense ties.

Talking about the outcomes of the bilateral defense cooperation over the past time, Deputy Head of the Department of Foreign Relations under the Ministry of National Defense Senior Colonel Pham Manh Thang reviewed that Vietnam-France defense cooperation in the 2017-2020 period developed fruitfully, comprehensively and effectively in all fields, creating a momentum to bring the two countries’ defense cooperation to a new height. Colonel Thang, who was Vietnamese Defense Attaché to France in the 2017-2020 tenure, recalled that in the period the two countries focused on strengthening their strategic partnership through high-level visits, including the official visit of Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong to France in 2018 and French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe’s visit to Vietnam two years later.

In addition, Vietnam and France maintained many important cooperation mechanisms and effectively fostered their cooperation in such fields as economics, education and training, tourism, and science-technology. Regarding defense field, General Ngo Xuan Lich, the then Vietnamese defense minister, paid an official visit to France in 2018 and signed different important cooperation agreements in an effort to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation.

Apart from high-level visits to Vietnam, France annually sends its warships and experts to exchange experiences with and seek cooperation opportunities with Vietnam in fields of mutual concern.

In addition, over the past 30 years, the two countries have effectively cooperated and supported each other at multilateral mechanisms and forums. Particularly, Vietnam also welcomed France’s wish to attend ASEAN-led defense and security mechanisms, especially the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+), as well as its new role as a development partner of ASEAN. Meanwhile, France has supported Vietnam’s participation at meetings of E.U. Chiefs of Defense from 2018 and establishment of Vietnam-E.U. Defense-Security Dialogue. 

French Ambassador to Vietnam Nicolas Warnery reviewed that Vietnam and France have over the past time bolstered their defense relations in different fields, including military medicine, hydrology, U.N. peacekeeping operations, defense industry, cyber security, and strategic research.

Mentioning the two countries’ long-standing cooperation in military medicine, Deputy Director of the Military Medical Department Senior Colonel Nguyen Huu My recalled that in the 2003-2008 period the two countries effectively conducted a malaria prevention and control project in Vietnam. Through the project, French military medical force presented 6.5 million franc and equipment to assist Vietnam in its research activities. The project’s outcomes were published on the two countries’ and international media. Especially, since the military medical departments of the two countries signed a cooperation agreement in the field in 2016, more cooperation activities have been implemented. 

Since 2013, Vietnam has officially become a member of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) with the support of France. The two countries also promoted their cooperation in this field with the signing of a cooperation agreement on hydrology, oceanography and maritime cartography in 2015 and 2018. According to the agreements, France supported Vietnam in training its cartographers, upgrading marine surveying equipment, and producing charts that meet IHO standards.

French Defense Attaché to Vietnam Lieutenant Colonel Marc Razafindranaly said that apart from available cooperation fields, Vietnam and France have expanded their bilateral defense relations in personnel training, visits of French warships, and preparations for U.N. peacekeeping missions.  

U.N. peacekeeping operations is one of the new defense cooperation fields between Vietnam and France. According to Director of the Vietnam Department for Peacekeeping Operations Major General Hoang Kim Phung, since the two defense ministries inked a cooperation agreement on U.N. peacekeeping operations in November, 2016, various cooperation contents have been realized in both bilateral and multilateral frameworks. Together with helping Vietnam in training its peacekeeping personnel, the French Defense Ministry also shared its experience in preparing forces to join U.N. peacekeeping operations. 

It is obvious that the outcomes of Vietnam-France defense cooperation in different fields over the past 30 years have demonstrated France’s trust, goodwill and respect for Vietnam. They have also proved French senior leaders’ statement that the French Government may change, but France-Vietnam relationship will remain unchanged.

Translated by Tran Hoai