HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM — Military analysts say Vietnam is desperate for a new generation of powerful fighter jets and other arms, and recent news reports indicate the country could be seeking them from both the United States and Russia, although no details can be confirmed.
Reuters reported Saturday that the Biden administration is in talks with Vietnam over an agreement for the largest transfer of arms between the two countries, including F-16 fighter jets. The report says the deal is still in its early stages and may not come together. But it was a key topic of recent Vietnamese-U.S. Talks in Hanoi, New York and Washington over the past month, according to Reuters.
The White House declined comment on the matter.
A few weeks ago, before President Joe Biden visited Vietnam and upgraded the two country’s relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, the New York Times reported that Vietnam’s military was pursuing a secret Russian arms deal that would violate U.S. sanctions on Moscow.
Since the release of the report, U.S. and Vietnamese officials have declined to discuss the issue.
The deal was outlined in a March 2023 document from Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance and has been verified by former and current Vietnamese officials, according to the Times report. The Times report contends that Hanoi plans to fund defense purchases by shifting $8 billion over 20 years to Vietsovpetro – a joint oil venture in Siberia.
Although experts say the Times report is well-founded, it is unclear whether it will go through and how it could affect Hanoi’s standing with Western partners, particularly the United States.
“I do believe the NYT story has credence … If true, the report highlights that Vietnam still views Russia as an important defense cooperation partner,” wrote senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute Ian Storey over email.
“We do not yet know if the Vietnamese government has decided to follow through on the deal,” he wrote.
Nguyen The Phuong, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New South Wales who specializes in Vietnam’s defense and maritime security, told VOA he first heard about a potential arms deal with Russia in June. Although he said he had not seen the leaked Finance Ministry document, he has seen a letter of intention from Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to his Russian counterpart to pursue an arms purchase.
“There’s a letter of intention from the Vietnamese prime minister to push that plan,” Phuong said of the arms deal. “It’s become more and more clear about the intention of the Vietnamese to move forward with that plan.
Source : VOA News