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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arms and Energy on Vietnam Agenda

HANOI, Vietnam — Russia and Vietnam aim to expand cooperation in various fields, including weapon supplies, through a visit to Hanoi by President Vladimir Putin starting Wednesday, Russia's ambassador to Vietnam was quoted as saying.

Viktor Ivanov told the official Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's Army) newspaper that other potential fields for cooperation included oil and gas, telecommunications and nuclear energy.

"As I know, Vietnam still considers Russian weapons the best in the world," he said. "We will expand cooperation with Vietnam in these fields."

Putin, expected to arrive in Hanoi on Wednesday evening for a two-day visit, will be the most senior Kremlin leader ever to visit a country that was one of Moscow's staunchest ideological allies during the darkest days of the Cold War.

Itar-Tass said Putin had told Vietnam's Communist Party newspaper Nhan Dan (People) bilateral cooperation had reached the level of a "strategic partnership." He also said the current reforms in Russia had much in common with the process under way in Vietnam.

"The current process is Russia associated with the strengthening of the state resemble in many aspects the Vietnamese model of reforms," he said. "Your experience is very interesting and we are going to use it."

Putin said the two countries had managed to preserve and develop cooperation in all key directions, primarily in the economy, despite difficulties of recent years.

Ivanov said the key obstacle to trade expansion was lack of an efficient payment system, limited financial capabilities, high transportation costs and high tariff barriers. He said an agreement last September on Hanoi's Soviet-era debt to Moscow and Putin's visit would bring new impetus for trade. This agreement cut Hanoi's debt to Moscow by 85 percent and allowed for repayment of the remaining sum over 23 years. Before the deal, Moscow had estimated the debt at $11 billion. Analysts do not expect Vietnamese repayment in hard currency but through business and other concessions.

Putin is to meet Vietnamese leaders including President Tran Duc Luong and Prime Minister Phan Van Khai on Thursday and Communist Party General Secretary Le Kha Phieu on Friday.

Among the topics expected to be discussed are Moscow's lease on the former U.S. naval base at Cam Ranh Bay in southern Vietnam, which expires in 2004. Hanoi does not object to the Russian presence there, but wants Moscow to increase lease payments. Moscow's access to the strategic facility, which was also used by the Japanese during World War II is eyed enviously by the United States and China.