Moscow (UPI) Dec 21, 2009
Russia and Vietnam have signed a string of arms deals, including Hanoi's purchase of submarines and jet fighters from Moscow.
The deals elevate Vietnam to one of the top clients of the Russian arms industry and revive ties between Moscow and the former Soviet-era ally.
The agreements were signed during a recent visit to Moscow by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and in the presence of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
"Vietnam signed contracts for the purchases of submarines, planes and military equipment with the corresponding cooperation of the Russian side," the Vietnamese prime minister told reporters after inking the deals.
No details of the agreements were afforded by officials on either side.
Still, Russian news agency Interfax quoted unnamed sources as saying that Russia would sell Vietnam six diesel electric Project 636 Varshvyanka submarines for a total price tag of $2 billion.
The submarines are known within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by the nickname Kilos.
The submarines are set to be built for the Vietnamese navy at a rate of one per year, Interfax reported.
The agency also cited unidentified Russian officials in claiming that Vietnam would purchase 12 more Sukhoi Su-30MK2 fighter jets for $600 million.
Hanoi has already ordered and is awaiting delivery of eight similar aircraft from Russia in 2010.
The Russian exporter will be Rosoboronexport.
The arms deals also included an agreement for the construction of Vietnam's first atomic power plant, a lucrative -- and controversial -- project that has drawn the keen attention of the West and potential foreign partners.
Despite the global economic slowdown, trade between Vietnam and Moscow has flourished by an estimated $1.16 billion in the first nine-month period of 2009.
Concern, however, has primarily spawned from the latest arms deals between Russia and Vietnam.
The weapons purchases, in fact, have come at a time of increasing tension in the South China Sea, which Hanoi calls the East Sea.
The dispute focuses on the sovereignty of the oil and gas-rich Spratly and Paracel island chains for which Vietnam and China have competing claims.
Several other Asian countries also claim part or all of the Spratlys.
A regional defense analyst told the BBC that the rising tension in the South China Sea was "clearly a source of concern" to Hanoi.
The submarine acquisition would "increase Vietnam's negotiating power in the maritime disputes," the BBC reported quoting Professor Carlyle Thayer of the Australian Defense Force Academy as saying.
Earlier this year Vietnam demanded China investigate allegations that armed Chinese personnel beat and robbed Vietnamese fishermen who sought shelter on the Parcels during a typhoon.
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