President Vladimir Putin (left) and Vietnam’s President To Lam take part in a press briefing at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on June 20.—AFP
President Vladimir Putin (left) and Vietnam’s President To Lam take part in a press briefing at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on June 20.—AFP

HANOI: The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, says he wants to build a “reliable security architecture”, in the Asia-Pacific region. He made these remarks on Thursday, during a state visit to Vietnam, which is part of a ‘two-nation’ trip to Asia, viewed by many “as [a] show of defiance to the West”.

A day after signing a mutual defence agreement with North Korea, Putin received a 21-gun salute at a military ceremony, in Vietnam. He was embraced by two of its Communist leaders and lavishly praised by one of them.

Putin’s visit has drawn criticism from the United States and its allies, who treat the Russian leader as a ‘pariah’. They have protested that he should not be given a stage, to defend the war in Ukraine.

Russia and Vietnam penned agreements on issues, including energy. This underlines Moscow’s pivot towards Asia, after the West imposed sanctions on the Kremlin over the conflict in Ukraine.

“We are firmly committed to deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership with Vietnam, which remains among the priorities of Russia’s foreign policy,” Putin was quoted as saying, by Russian media.

“We are ready to continue active joint work on a wide range of topics, including economic, scientific and technical ties, defence, security and humanitarian contacts.”

He was quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency as saying that the two countries shared an interest in “developing a reliable security architecture” in the region, based on ‘not using force’ and ‘peacefully’ settling disputes with no room for “closed military-political blocs”.

The 11 pacts signed in Hanoi were not on the same level as the landmark agreement, reached in North Korea. Putin’s warm welcome was an achievement for the Russian leader, who has an outstanding International Criminal Court arrest warrant against him, over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2024

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