US encourages Vietnam to buy more of its weapons, diversify from Russia: report

By Minh Minh   February 8, 2018 | 04:00 am PT
US encourages Vietnam to buy more of its weapons, diversify from Russia: report
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (R) and Vietnam's Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich during a welcoming ceremony in Hanoi, Vietnam, January 25, 2018. Photo by Reuters/Kham
Most of Vietnam's military aircraft and all of its submarines were provided by Russia.

The U.S. State Department has expressed an interest in boosting its weapons trade with Vietnam two years after it lifted an embargo, saying it’s time Vietnam distances itself from “historical suppliers” like Russia.

The U.S. is encouraging Vietnam to diversify from typical suppliers like the Russians and look “into buying U.S. equipment that would, one, give them more capability and, two, help strengthen our partnership for the interoperability and the greater interaction with our military,” a State Department official said, as cited by the Virginia-based magazine Defense News.

Vietnam increased its military spending by almost 400 percent between 2005 and 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

But it has not considerably stepped up purchases of American-made weapons, even after the United States fully lifted its weapons ban in 2016, said Tina Kaidanow, the State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.

Kaidanow was in Vietnam between January 28 and February 4 before heading for the Singapore Airshow which took place between February 6 and 11.

Vietnam’s military hardware comes largely from Russia. Most of its military aircraft and all of its submarines are Russian-made.

Kaidanow said that Vietnam is interested in U.S. military technology, proven by the transfer of a Hamilton-class cutter from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2016 and the recent sale of Boeing-Insitu ScanEagle drones for maritime surveillance.

But the country is not familiar with the sales system yet and is still learning, she said, as cited in the report.

Vietnam and its former enemy, the United States, have improved relationships in recent years with state visits taking place during both the Obama and Trump presidencies.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Hanoi last month and announced that the U.S. would send an aircraft carrier to the country for a port visit in March, the first since the Vietnam War.

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