February 19, 2019 | 05:01 am PT

Vietnam, North Korea set to bolster long-standing friendship

Vietnam, North Korea set to bolster long-standing friendship
Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh (2nd, R) and North Korean Premier Kim Il Sung, during Kim's first visit to Vietnam in 1958. Photo by dangcongsan.vn

Kim Il Sung, founding father of North Korea, visited Vietnam twice and forged close ties with Vietnamese leaders.

As the world turns towards the second meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam’s capital city later this month, a quiet reaffirmation of longstanding ties between North Korea and Vietnam will also take place.

When Kim Jong-un arrives in Hanoi, he will resume a history that has been left untouched for 55 years. He will be the first North Korean leader to visit Vietnam after his grandfather and the founding leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung.

Kim Il Sung, the first leader of North Korea, led the country from its establishment in 1948 until his death in 1994. He held the posts of Premier from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 to 1994.

During his time in office, Kim Il Sung visited Vietnam twice, in 1958 and 1964.

Back in the 1950s, Vietnam and North Korea were close to each other because of the similarities they shared. Both the nations were divided by outside forces, and they had a mutual enemy, the U.S. Both received support from China and the Soviet Union.

North Korea was one of the first countries after China and the Soviet Union to establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1950.

The resistance movement in Vietnam had always captured North Korea’s attention.

"The radio station in Pyongyang and the North Korean press always had articles about Vietnam, and posted news about activities of the Vietnamese delegation," Hoang Quoc Viet, vice chairman of the United Vietnam Committee that led a Vietnamese delegation to visit North Korea, said in a report on Cuu Quoc newspaper, one of the first newspapers of Vietnam, in February, 1952.

Viet’s trip to North Korea was made in August 1951.

"The North Korean army gave President Ho Chi Minh a submachine gun made in North Korea following the Soviet model," he said, according to archives at the National Library of Vietnam in Hanoi.

Based on their good relationship, President Ho Chi Minh visited North Korea in December 1957, met with Kim Il Sung and visited the nation’s industrial exhibition centers and farms.

A year later, Kim Il Sung visited Vietnam from November 27 to December 3, 1958. In Vietnam, he visited the Nam Dinh Textile Factory, once the biggest of its kind in Indochina, in the northern province of Nam Dinh, as well as Tu Liem District in Hanoi, home to a friendship project between Vietnam and North Korea, an army school, and the Vietnam Military History Museum in Hanoi.

In June, 1961, Vietnam’s longest serving Prime Minister Pham Van Dong visited North Korea.

Three years later, Kim Il Sung came to Vietnam for the second time.

After the two visits by Kim Il Sung, Vietnam and North Korea continued to hold high-level talks.

Vietnam’s Chairman of the State Council, Vo Chi Cong, who visited North Korea for its National Day celebration and awarded the Gold Star Order, Vietnam’s highest decoration to President Kim Il Sung in 1988.

General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nong Duc Manh, visited North Korea in 2001 and 2007.

Kim Yong-nam, President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, and Kim Yong Il, Premier of North Korea visited Vietnam in 2001 and 2007 respectively.

Kim Il Sung’s first visit to Vietnam in 1958 is a frequently celebrated event in both countries. On its 55th anniversary in 2013, a ceremony was held at the Vietnam-North Korea Friendship Kyongsang Kindergarten in Pyongyang, displaying photos of Premier Kim Il Sung and President Ho Chi Minh.

On December 26, 2018, an exhibition on "Vietnam - Korea Friendship" was held at the Ho Chi Minh Museum in Hanoi to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the event.

To sum up, President Ho Chi Minh and President Kim Il Sung laid a strong foundation for a long-term cooperative and friendship relationship between the two countries.

The continuity in the bilateral relationship will be furthered with the choice of Vietnam as a growth model for North Korea to follow. Observers have noted that the choice is rooted in historical, ideological and practical reasons.

The North Korean leader has expressed this desire himself.

In three meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last year on economic reforms in North Korea, Kim Jong-un repeatedly cited Vietnam’s successes.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, during his trip to Vietnam last November, also told the Vietnamese government that North Korea hopes to learn from Vietnam’s model of development.

South Korean TV and radio network MBC has said Kim plans to reach Vietnam two days before the summit to visit key industrial sites in the north.