Vietnamese delegation led by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on the deck of the first Kilo-class submarine built by Russia on Sunday
The Vietnamese prime minister on Sunday arrived at the Russian seaport city of Kaliningrad to inspect the testing progress of a Kilo-class submarine which Vietnam contracted to buy from Russia in a step seen as an effort to counterbalance China's expanding maritime influence in the region.
PM Nguyen Tan Dung was leading a high-ranking delegation in an official visit to Russia scheduled from May 12 to 15.
The delegation boarded the submarine named Hanoi, which was built by Russia's Admiralteiskie Verfi shipyard in in St. Petersburg and is being tested near Svetly port in Kaliningrad, according to the government website.
The submarine has undergone 23 successful dives.
During Dung's visit to Moscow in December 2009, Vietnam signed a US$2 billion deal to buy six submarines from Russia.
Russia has promised to deliver all of them by 2016.
"We are very grateful to our Russian friends, who will build and deliver to Vietnam until 2016, according to the agreement, six submarines of the kind," Russian news agency ITAR-TASS quoted Dung as saying Sunday.
He said the order is not only of a commercial character, it is also an expression of friendship and trust between the two countries.
According to Itar-Tass, Dung continued saying Vietnam has a big sea border and stressed the country's policy is aimed at defense and "we are buying armament for defense of the sovereignty of our territories."
Dung said the military-technical cooperation with Russia "is not limited with the six submarines, we are also expecting other kinds of armament and equipment."
Kilo-class submarines, nicknamed "Black Holes" for their ability to avoid detection, are considered to be among the quietest diesel-electric submarines in the world.
They are designed for anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare and for general reconnaissance and patrol missions.
They have a displacement of 2,300 tons, a maximum depth of 350 meters, and a range of 9,600 km, and are equipped with six 533-mm torpedo tubes.
In related news, on Sunday, the first of China's 32-strong fishing fleet arrived at the disputed Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands despite Vietnam's protest.
Vietnam News Agency reported that the F8138 arrived at a fishing ground on western Spratlys after a one-week voyage.
A flotilla including 30 fishing vessels and two large transport and supply ships left China's southern province of Hainan May 6 for a 40-day trip to the Spatlys, AFP quoted a China Daily report as saying.
The activity was condemned by Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a violation of Vietnam's sovereignty.
Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi told the media May 9 Vietnam will keep a close eye on the progress of the fleet.