Australia expands military influence in Vietnam

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Australia's Defense Minister Stephen Smith will arrive in Vietnam on Wednesday to open an Australian military lab in the country as the two countries' friendly relationship expands.

During his second visit to Vietnam as Australian Minister for Defense, Smith will meet with his Vietnamese counterpart, General Phung Quang Thanh, and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. 

The two-day trip will include visits to the National Defense Academy, the Special Forces Officers School and Unit 871. Smith will also open an Australia-funded English language laboratory at the Military Technical Academy.

"Vietnam is emerging as a strong influence in ASEAN and its related forums. As Vietnam continues to develop, Australia welcomes it taking a greater role in contributing to regional stability and security," said Smith.

"The growing defense to defense and military to military relationship between Australia and Vietnam is based on our mutual interest in regional security and strengthening ties through regional and multilateral engagement."

Smith added that Australia is committed to building these relations through senior level dialogues and practical cooperation.

In recent years, Australia's cooperation program with Vietnam has expanded considerably, including cooperative activities involving the United Nations Peacekeeping missions and Special Forces.

The two countries have for years cooperated in officer training and English language training.

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"I welcome in particular enhanced practical cooperation and training between Australia and Vietnam on peacekeeping," said Smith, adding that Australia had been pleased to provide training to 80 Vietnamese soldiers to assist Vietnam People's Army to prepare for possible future UN peacekeeping missions.

Australia and Vietnam have also boosted naval cooperation, including a program of regular ship visits. HMAS Sydney, a light cruiser operated by the Royal Australian Navy, will visit Vietnam in October.

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