Free and Open Indo-Pacific/FOIPPartnershipsSoutheast Asia

Indonesia, Vietnam reinforce security ties

Maria T. Reyes

Indonesian and Vietnamese defense officials met in August 2023 to reaffirm their nations’ strong bilateral ties. The meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, between Vietnam’s deputy defense minister, Senior Lt. Gen. Hoang Xuan Chien, and Lt. Gen. Donny Ermawan Taufanto, secretary general of Indonesia’s Defense Ministry, coincided with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defence Senior Officials’ Meeting (ADSOM) and ADSOM Plus.

Chien underscored the pivotal role of a December 2022 agreement that delineated the two countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs), signed during then-Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visit to Indonesia. Chien described the deal as “an important milestone in the bilateral relationship, creating a foundation to foster cooperation between maritime forces, including the navies and coast guards.”
The agreement aims to address issues such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and bolsters enforcement of maritime rights.

During the August meeting, Chien proposed additional bilateral collaboration, including preparations for the Vietnamese defense minister’s upcoming visit to Indonesia and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM). He also stressed the importance of expanding cooperation in sectors such as the defense industry, military medicine and training.

Chien advocated for an agreement on joint naval patrols to strengthen collaboration. “We hope to see our maritime law enforcement forces handling fishermen’s violations humanely,” he said.

Ermawan said his meeting with Chien highlighted the nations’ shared interest in regional stability and cooperation.

“Vietnam has become an important part of ADMM and so far has been able to communicate well with Indonesia. We are sure that the Vietnamese delegation will again make a positive contribution in all ADSOM discussions,” Ermawan said, according to the Defense Ministry.

The 2022 Indonesia-Vietnam agreement has implications across the South China Sea, which the People’s Republic of China (PRC) claims nearly in its entirety despite a 2016 international tribunal ruling that invalidated the assertion. Indonesia and Vietnam are among five countries with competing claims in the strategic waterway, although Indonesia has said it is not a party to the South China Sea disputes.

The accord, reached after 12 years of negotiations, could strengthen the region’s commitment to international maritime norms and principles under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Bich Tran, a visiting fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote in January 2023.

FORUM contributor Gusty Da Costa contributed to this article.

Maria T. Reyes is a FORUM contributor reporting from Manila, Philippines.

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