20 Mar 2015

NZ and Vietnam to strengthen defence ties

5:24 am on 20 March 2015

Forty years after being enemies New Zealand and Vietnam have agreed to develop even closer defence ties.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his wife, being greeted by Prime Minister John Key.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his wife, being greeted by Prime Minister John Key. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

At a meeting of the two countries' Prime Ministers in Auckland they have decided to do more together, with the Vietnamese particularly wanting New Zealand's help training its officers for United Nations peacekeeping operations.

This year the two countries celebrate 40 years of diplomatic ties, forged once the Vietnam War ended.

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung flew into Auckland yesterday after a three-day visit to Australia.

Though Mr Dung and the Prime Minister, John Key, talked trade, defence was also raised during their official meeting.

Mr Key said there would be closer defence ties between the two countries.

"It's most likely going to be in the area of training where we can undertake training together.

"There are occasions where it makes sense to do so, and of course having our military on occasions undertaking those trainings... are very beneficial when we ultimately maybe go into the support or help of a country that has some sort of natural disaster, for instance, because our militaries understand one another."

Speaking though a translator, Mr Dung said Vietnam agreed last year to start taking part in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

"That is why we like experience and expertise in this area of co-operation. That is why in the spirit of comprehensive partnership with New Zealand I respectfully asked New Zealand to help Vietnam to train the military officers of the Vietnam army in order to help them to engage in the peacekeeping missions of the United Nations," Mr Dung said.

The two leaders also spoke about Vietnam's territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.

Mr Dung said he and Mr Key agreed on the need for peace and stability in the region and that international law should be observed.

Mr Key said he repeated New Zealand's view of the matter.

"New Zealand's long-standing position has been that it encourages the partners to find a negotiated and peaceful way forward to resolving the disputes and issues in the South China Sea. And certainly the Prime Minister gave a strong view that that is the preferred option of Vietnam."

Mr Dung was due to fly out of Auckland on Friday afternoon.