China is willing to work with Vietnam to promote high-level communication, institutional construction and practical cooperation between their militaries, Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu said on Tuesday when meeting his Vietnamese counterpart Phan Van Giang, who agreed to push bilateral military ties to a new level.
Experts said the meeting and remarks of the two defense heads are a direct response to the claim that the arrival of a US aircraft carrier at a port in Vietnam will cast a shadow on China-Vietnam relations.
According to China’s Ministry of National Defense, China and Vietnam should continue to stand together and closely unite to safeguard their common strategic interests and make positive contributions to regional peace and stability amid challenges to the security of the Asia-Pacific region, Li said during their meeting in Beijing.
Phan told Li that the Vietnamese military is willing to continue to strengthen cooperation with China in politics, border defense and personnel training for bilateral military ties at a new level.
The two defense heads’ meeting came after the USS Ronald Reagan, a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, arrived in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang on Sunday, which was hyped by some Western media reports as “two previous enemies becoming partners against China’s position in the South China Sea.”
Zhuo Hua, an international affairs expert at the School of International Relations and Diplomacy of Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the US’ attempts to woo Vietnam to contain China are only wishful thinking and the remarks of Li and Phan show that Vietnam met China halfway and highly affirmed the traditional friendship with China and the fundamental principles of the bilateral relationship.
Both China and Vietnam are socialist nations with a historical friendship through China’s support to Vietnam in resisting foreign aggression, and they share regional security interests, Zhuo pointed out, saying that the high-level officials’ close interaction will provide greater impetus for the development of bilateral military ties.
Following the visits to China of Vietnam’s communist party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and other high-level officials in 2022, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh arrived in Beijing on Sunday to start his first visit to China since assuming office as prime minister. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang also met with his Vietnamese counterpart Bui Thanh Son, who accompanied the prime minister.
The arrival of the Reagan has increased the military exchanges between the US and Vietnam, but it cannot stir up colossal waves between China and Vietnam, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
“Vietnam and other ASEAN members have clearly stated their unwillingness to take sides between China and the US. Regarding the South China Sea issue, China and Vietnam have been engaging in dialogue and negotiations to handle the existing differences. They don’t want external countries to intervene in the South China Sea disputes. They have consensus on this matter,” Song said.
Besides the meeting of the two defense heads, China and Vietnam have had frequent military interactions since 2023. In late May, military delegations from China, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam had an initial planning conference for the Exercise Aman Youyi-2023, meaning “peace and friendship,” in Guangzhou, South China’s Guangdong Province.
PLA Navy ship Qi Jiguang arrived in Da Nang, Vietnam on May 23 for a two-day friendly visit. In February, a working group from the Chinese Defense Ministry visited Vietnam to exchange views on bilateral military ties and regional security issues of common concern.