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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Vietnam's President To Lam pose for photos at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam today Alamy Stock Photo

Putin arrives in Vietnam, a day after signing a mutual defence pact with North Korea

Putin arrived from North Korea, where he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement that pledges mutual aid in the event of war.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR Putin is seeking to strengthen ties with long-time partner Vietnam on a state visit today that comes as Moscow faces growing international isolation because of its military actions in Ukraine.

Upon his arrival, Putin was greeted by dignitaries, and soldiers in white dress uniforms stood at attention.

He arrived from North Korea, where he and leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement that pledges mutual aid in the event of war.

The strategic pact, which could mark the strongest connection between Moscow and Pyongyang since the end of the Cold War, comes as both face escalating standoffs with the West.

in-this-photo-provided-thursday-june-20-2024-by-the-north-korean-government-russian-president-vladimir-putin-center-left-and-north-koreas-leader-kim-jong-un-center-right-ride-on-an-open-car Putin, center left, and Kim Jong Un, center right, ride on an open car during the official welcome ceremony at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, yesterday Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

In Hanoi, the Russian leader is scheduled to meet Vietnam’s most powerful politician, Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, the new President To Lam and other officials.

The trip has resulted in a sharp rebuke from the US embassy in the country.

Much has changed since Putin’s last visit to Vietnam in 2017.

Russia now faces a raft of US-led sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine.

In 2023, the International Criminal Court in Hague issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes.

The Kremlin rejected it as “null and void,” stressing that Moscow does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction.

The US and its allies have expressed growing concerns over a possible arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions for its use in Ukraine, in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that could enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.

Both countries deny accusations of weapons transfers, which would violate multiple UN Security Council sanctions that Russia previously endorsed.

Hanoi and Moscow have had diplomatic relations since 1950 and this year marks the 30th anniversary of a treaty establishing “friendly relations” between Vietnam and Russia.

Evidence of this long relationship and its influence can be seen in Vietnamese cities like the capital, where the many Soviet-style apartment blocks are now dwarfed by skyscrapers and a statue of Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, stands in a park where kids skateboard every evening.

Many of the Communist Party’s top leaders in Vietnam, including party chief Trong, studied in Soviet universities.

In an article written for Nhan Dan, the official newspaper of Vietnam’s Communist Party, Putin vowed to deepen the ties between Moscow and Hanoi and hailed Vietnam as a “strong supporter of a fair world order based on international law, on the principles of equality of all states and non-interference in their domestic affairs”.

He also thanked “Vietnamese friends for their balanced position on the Ukrainian crisis” in the article released by the Kremlin.

Vietnam’s policy of “bamboo diplomacy” — a phrase coined by Trong referring to the flexibility of the bamboo plant, which bends but does not break in the shifting headwinds of global geopolitics – is being increasingly tested.

A manufacturing powerhouse and an increasingly important player in global supply chains, Vietnam played host to both US President Joe Biden and the leader of rival China, Xi Jinping, in 2023.

Vietnam has remained neutral on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But neutrality is getting trickier, with the US Embassy in Hanoi criticising Putin’s visit, saying that “no country should give Putin a platform to promote his war of aggression and otherwise allow him to normalise his atrocities.”

If Putin is allowed to travel freely it “could normalise Russia’s blatant violations of international law,” the statement said.

Bilateral trade between Russia and Vietnam was at $3.6 billion in 2023, compared to $171 billion with China and $111 billion with America.

Since the early 2000s, Russia accounted for around 80% of Vietnam’s arms imports.

This has been declining over the years due to Vietnamese attempts to diversify its supplies.

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