Putin Strikes Energy Deals With Vietnam

ReutersPutin and Nguyen Minh Triet below a bust of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi on Monday
HANOI, Vietnam -- Russia and Vietnam agreed Monday during a visit by President Vladimir Putin to step up economic cooperation and work together to combat terrorism.

A pomp-filled day of meetings with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet and other top officials included deals signed in the energy and banking sectors.

Russia also was prepared to expand its oil and gas cooperation into the atomic energy sector, said Putin, who has sought to put Russia back on the map as a global economic powerhouse by building business ties on his trips overseas.

"The possibilities of the Russian economy and of individual Russian companies are significant," Putin said, adding that he hoped "our traditional partners and friends" would take advantage of the opportunity.

Putin laid wreaths at Vietnam's memorial to fallen heroes and at the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh before proceeding to the mustard-yellow palace for official meetings, where his motorcade was received by cheering crowds of Vietnamese clad in colorful traditional ao dai tunics, waving Vietnamese and Russian flags.

The two nations have seen steadily warming ties following an icebreaking visit by Putin in 2001. The two countries have also expanded diplomatic and military ties. Viktor Chemezov, the head of state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, joined Putin on the trip.

The two sides also pledged to fight terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, as well as calling for a resolution of the diplomatic impasse over North Korea's nuclear program "by political and diplomatic means."

But the day's focus was on business.

The centerpiece deal was a cooperation agreement between Gazprom and PetroVietnam. No financial terms were released, but the agreement could prove a lucrative opportunity for Gazprom to sell its gas in the region.

Under the terms of the agreement -- inked in the presidential palace against the backdrop of a bust of communist hero Ho Chi Minh -- Gazprom would help build much-needed gas infrastructure, as well as continue its exploratory drilling work off the Vietnamese coast.

Vietnam has "significant proven reserves" Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller told journalists after the signing ceremony. Eventually, the gas produced could be sold to the Vietnamese market as well as overseas, he said.

Atomic energy was also on the agenda. Kremlin aide Sergei Prikhodko said Russia was hoping to help build Vietnam's first atomic energy plant -- due to be commissioned sometime from 2015 to 2020 -- as well as a nuclear research plant, RIA-Novosti reported. "We are ready to participate in construction," he said, the agency reported.

Russia ranks 20th among foreign investors in Vietnam with some $280 million worth of investment in 47 projects.