Tuesday, October 07, 2008

US and Vietnam hold defence, security talks

HANOI (AFP) — Former enemies the United States and Vietnam on Monday discussed possible areas of future military cooperation in their first Strategic Dialogue on Political, Security and Defence Issues, officials said.

"We focused on a wide range of areas in which we can strengthen our relationship jointly," US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Mark Kimmitt told a Hanoi media briefing after the talks.

"We discussed areas of mutual interest including international peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security and the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

The talks, which are set to be held annually, follow a number of US naval visits and other military diplomacy between the countries that resumed full ties in 1995, twenty years after the end of the Vietnam War.

Hanoi has sought to balance its relations with large neighbour and communist ally China, and with the United States, now a key economic partner.

As it has reintegrated with the Asian region and the world, Vietnam, currently a non-permanent UN Security Council member, has stated its willingness to deploy peacekeepers to conflict areas in future.

"With a view to contributing to peace and stability in the world, we have many times stated that Vietnam are finalising procedures in participating in peacekeeping operations," said Standing Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.

"To be efficient Vietnam would like to cooperate with every country to make sure that our participation will generate impact," he said.

Kimmit said the United States stood ready to assist Vietnam in "building that capacity, as we do with so many other countries around the world."