The U.S. Coast Guard continued to expand U.S. ties to Vietnam last week with a visit by Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Bob Papp, who became the first Commandant to visit as part of an official international outreach initiative.
Over the past three years, the Coast Guard, in close coordination with the Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, has been helping Vietnam to build their maritime governance capacity by providing training assistance to the Vietnam Marine Police. The VMP is a “Coast Guard-like” maritime law enforcement component within their Ministry of Defense, and will become the Vietnam Coast Guard next month.
The Coast Guard’s training has focused on maritime law enforcement, search and rescue and operational planning. “Train the trainer” in nature, the U.S. Coast Guard’s curriculum development assistance will have lasting benefits to Vietnamese maritime safety and security, fostering a stable environment for economic development. In another enduring form of support the U.S. Coast Guard, supported by Department of State funding, assisted the VMP with constructing a new maritime law enforcement classroom at VMP Region 1 Headquarters in Haiphong.
The groundwork for the Coast Guard’s direct assistance was established by a series of U.S. and Vietnamese agreements, including a bilateral search and rescue agreement in 2002, a counternarcotics letter of agreement in 2006 and a bilateral maritime agreement in 2007 and the Megaports Agreement in 2010 to better identify weapons of mass destruction components in maritime shipping.
“Strengthening partnerships with maritime governance forces like the Vietnam Marine Police is vital to improving regional security,” said the Commandant. “I’m proud of the strong foundation we have established in pursuing our shared goals of safe transportation, clean seas and secure and efficient movement of commerce. I look forward to future engagements to demonstrate the Coast Guard’s sustained commitment to the VMP.”
In addition to touring Vietnam Marine Police boats and classroom facilities, the Commandant met with the VMP’s Director General, Major Gen. Nguyen Quang Dam. The Commandant also met with other senior Vietnamese officials including Vice Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc and Minister of Defense Gen. Phung Quang Thanh.
The Coast Guard’s efforts are in coordination with overall U.S. efforts to strengthen ties with Vietnam. During a White House meeting on July 25, 2013, President Barack Obama and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang announced a U.S. Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership that will include a focus on international law. In a joint statement they “…agreed to work more closely to counter terrorism; enhance maritime law enforcement cooperation; combat transnational crime including piracy, and narcotics, human and wildlife trafficking; and address high-tech crime and cyber security.”
Coast Guard capacity building has been a significant part of overall U.S. engagement in Vietnam over the past three years. Each outreach activity has succeeded in further strengthening trust and opening the door to a broader range of activities between our two countries.
“The benefits of our partnership extend well beyond our two countries,” said the Commandant. “The VMP is better able to share their expertise with other neighbor countries through the Gulf of Thailand Initiative, further improving maritime governance in the region.”