France covets the vietnamese market of the weapon that opens quickly since the end of the Russian monopoly, while the Us, once sworn enemies of the communist regime, are back in force.
In Hanoi on Thursday and Friday, the French secretary of State for foreign Trade Pierre Lellouche was assured that there would be “a place for France” in this market.
An important step had been taken in July when his ex-colleague, Hervé Morin had made the first visit to a “highly symbolic” of a French Defence minister to Vietnam since the debacle of Dien bien Phu, in 1954.
France, he explained, is “politically ready” to participate in the “modernization” of the vietnamese army. Mr. Morin had spoken of the purchase of radars, helicopters and planes to transport French.
Communist Vietnam has engaged in recent years, a sharp discount to the level of its “popular army” whose victories against the “French colonialists” in 1954 and the Americans in 1975 are still celebrated with emphasis in the army museum in Hanoi.
With nearly 3,200 kilometers of coastline, Vietnam makes a logical emphasis on the equipment of its navy, especially as tensions with China are increasing about of the sovereignty of the disputed islands Spratleys and Paracels in the south China sea.
Theatre of numerous incidents, the region control the access of the ports of the China, would have significant reserves of oil and gas and constitutes a fishing area coveted.
In this context, Russia is still, by far, the supplier of weapons privileged of the people’s Republic of Vietnam, which was acquired in 2009 and 2010, twenty fighter jets Su-30MK2, and six submarines Russian Kilo-class.
But today’s Russia is not the USSR of old, the one who had provided key support to the Vietminhs of general Giap. “Vietnam is now seeking to be closer to the major western powers in the event that things go wrong with Beijing,” notes one observer.
And thus were broken the taboos, the French and the americans. At the end of 2009, the minister of vietnam Defense, Phung Quang Thanh, visited France after a visit to the United States, where he had talked with the u.s. secretary of Defense, Robert Gates.
The meeting took place at the Pentagon, a spectacular development fifteen years after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Multiple technical agreements have been made by Hanoi with Australia, Belgium and New Zealand. It is even mentioned contacts with the arms industry in israel.
“While the vietnam army was hiding willingly to sign partnerships with foreign countries, it is now much more openly,” notes Benedict of Tréglodé, director of the research Institute on southeast Asia (IRASEC) in Bangkok.
“A few months ago, Vietnamese people have even referred to the term of +community spirit+ with the Americans,” says the researcher.
That is precisely the effort of military equipment to Hanoi? This question remains in limbo in a thick mystery.
Officially, the Vietnam spends nearly 2% of its GDP on its military. But this figure does not include contracts for weapons, many of which remain a State secret, or the multitude of commercial activities of the armed forces (coffee production, mining, mobile..) that abound in their budget.